SENIOR LEGION BASEBALL: Kovacik Insurance ousted from Region 7 tournament
SOMERSET — Kovacik Insurance scrapped until its last out, but even with a six-run rally in the seventh inning, the resilient Blairsville-based entry couldn’t quite pull off a comeback against Philipsburg.
Thanks in part to a pair of towering homers early from Luther Harlow, Philipsburg scored the game’s first eight runs and then held off a late push from Kovacik Insurance to secure an 8-6 win in an elimination game of the Pennsylvania Senior American Legion Region 7 tournament Monday at Somerset High School.
Kovacik Insurance, the Indiana County regular-season champ, concluded its season with an 18-7 mark. Philipsburg advanced to play the loser of the Unity/Mifflin County contest in an elimination game today. That game was postponed Monday.
The winner of the five-day, eight-team tournament will advance to the Pennsylvania Senior American Legion state tournament, which will begin Friday in Boyertown.
“It’s always tough. You get to this point and you know your season is just about over and you start thinking about getting some guys in off the bench that deserve some time,” said Kovacik Insurance manager Bob Thompson, who assembled the team in 2011 and has led it to three straight berths in the regional tournament. “But I’ve got to give credit to the guys who were in the game. They didn’t want to quit and they came up with some big hits (and) some big at-bats. They did exactly what they had to do to scratch back in the game.”
Kovacik Insurance starting pitcher Reed Ratkus, who threw 40 pitches in his team’s win over Bedford on Saturday, paid dearly for not having his best stuff in the first three innings.
Ratkus served up three hits, including a solo homer to Harlow, and two walks in the bottom of the first inning, allowing Philipsburg to bolt to a 4-0 lead.
Harlow singled and scored on a double in the third to extend Philipsburg’s lead to 5-0.
Two innings later, Harlow followed back-to-back singles from Aaron Lidgett and Parker Watson with a three-run homer that stretched Philipsburg’s lead to 8-0.
“I’ve had good days before, but nothing quite like that,” said Harlow, who finished 4-for-4. “I’ve actually been in a little bit of a slump lately so I made some adjustments before the game. I just shifted more weight to my back foot and tried to watch the ball longer in my swing.”
“He just killed the ball today,” Thompson said. “We left both of those home run balls up the in the zone for him. You leave a ball up like that — this fence isn’t too deep — they’re usually going to make you pay for it.”
Philipsburg starting pitcher Chad Speigle allowed just three hits and no runs in the first six innings.
Speigle, however, was replaced by reliever David Ormsby with two outs in the seventh after he surrendered six runs on five hits, two errors and a walk to allow Kovacik Insurance to creep back into the game. Bobby Gaston sliced Philipsburg’s lead to 8-6 by scoring from third on a wild pitch.
“The guys didn’t give up, and that makes me very proud of everyone here,” Thompson said. “We were down eight runs and put six on the board. That definitely means a lot to these kids because they knew they stuck with it and didn’t lay down.”
Ormsby handcuffed Kovacik Insurance over the final two innings. The left-hander struck out two and walked none in two hitless innings to notch the save.
Ormsby and Speigle teamed up to hold two of Blairsville’s most trusty offensive threats, Bobby and Scott Thompson, to no hits. The Thompson brothers finished a combined 0-for-9 and managed to reach base just once collectively.
“Chad pitched a heck of a game,” Philipsburg manager Jim Rice said. “We ran into a little bit of trouble in the seventh, but the guys sucked it up and we eventually got out of that jam. We definitely got some help from our reliever, David Ormsby, too. He came in and basically shut the door on them.”
Adam Magalich paced Kovacik Insurance by going 2-for-5 with an RBI. Magalich and Andrew Iezzi each finished the tournament with five hits and two RBIs.