SENIOR LEGION CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES: Renegades stave off elimination to force a Game 3
WEST LEBANON — In two of the most meaningful moments of his team’s season, Young Township’s Delbert Brown delivered with his bat and his arm Sunday.
Brown first stroked a three-run double in the fifth inning to drive in the game’s tying and eventual winning runs.
In the next inning, Brown moved from first base to pitcher, allowing no hits in the last two innings to help the Renegades pull out a 6-5 win in Game 2 of the Indiana County Senior Legion championship series at Bertolino Field.
The decisive game of the best-of-three series will be played today at 6 p.m. in Marion Center. The winner will join regular-season champ Kovacik Insurance in the Pennsylvania Senior American Legion Region 7 tournament, which begins Saturday in Somerset.
“When you need a clutch hit, he’s the guy you want up there,” Young Township manager Barry Thomas said of Brown.
“Delbert’s probably one of our best pitchers, but he’s also been hitting No. 3 and No. 5 for us. He’s just been coming up with some big hits, doubles and triples, lately.”
Marion Center struck the first blow in a back-and-forth contest by scoring a run in the top of the first inning. Adam Tomayko walked, stole second and scored on Hunter Stiteler’s base hit.
Eric Adamson and Luke Popovich each walked and scored on an error in the second to stretch Marion Center’s lead to 3-0.
Young Township responded, however, plating two runs on two hits, two walks and an error in the bottom of the second to make it 3-2.
Mike Percic belted an RBI double off the left-field fence to fuel the rally.
In the next inning, Young Township’s Mitch Johnston singled to score Ben Carnahan, tying the game, 3-3.
“Johnston’s been great for me all year, especially in pressure situations like that,” Thomas said. “He’s my top average guy in the playoffs, and he always comes to play. He’s does a great job. I can’t say enough about him.”
Luke Ruddock walked in the fourth and then scored later in the inning on Stiteler’s grounder to give Marion Center a 4-3 lead.
A nifty unassisted double play from shortstop Matt Popovich ruined a potential Young Township rally in the fourth.
But an inning later, the Renegades loaded the bases with two outs against Marion Center reliever Jeff Labryer.
With an 0-1 count, Labryer threw Brown a fastball on the inside corner. The left-handed Brown turned on the pitch and clubbed it into the right-field corner for a three-run double that gave the Renegades a 6-4 lead.
“It seemed like it just swept across the middle of the plate, and I took the best hack at it that I could,” Brown said. “For a second I thought it was going foul, and then I saw him (Tyler Doolin) closing in on it. He reached up, but thank God he didn’t get his glove on it. It was the best feeling in the world when it dropped.”
“He just turned on it. There was nothing we could do about it. One swing changed the whole game,” Marion Center coach Joe Bunyak added.
But thanks to some grit and hustle from Matt Popovich, Marion Center plated a run the following inning to cut Young Township’s lead to one run. Popovich stole second and third before scoring on Adamson’s sacrifice fly to shallow right field to make it 6-5.
Then, with Young Township still clinging to a 6-5 lead, Brown walked the first batter, Ruddock, on four pitches in the seventh. Brown then threw three straight balls to pinch-hitter Jared Selkirk in the next at-bat.
In a strange move, and with the count still 3-0, Selkirk dropped a sacrifice bunt down the first base line to advance Ruddock to second.
The following batter, Tomayko, advanced Ruddock to third with a groundout to limping shortstop Mitchel Yard.
With two outs and Ruddock on third, Brown induced Stiteler’s grounder to Yard. Yard ran down the grounder deep in the hole and gunned down a head-first sliding Stiteler to end the game.
“Mitchel’s got a little bit of a sore arm, but it worked out,” Thomas said. “That’s a pressure player if I’ve ever seen one. That’s the good thing about this team is we have a lot of leaders, and he’s one of them. He said he was going to leave it on the field. He told me before the game, ‘I don’t get many chances like this. I’m not going down no matter what.’”
Brown, who threw 94 pitches to pick up the win in Game 1 of the Kovacik Insurance series Thursday, struck out one and walked three to get the win. Brown admitted to having little arm strength left in the seventh, but he said he wanted to finish the game.
“I was just having trouble with my arm the past couple days,” Brown said. “It was still weak from pitching against Blairsville. I threw over 90 pitches so I just tried to buckle down the best I could and let them put the ball in play. Thankfully, the fielders made the plays.”