BLAIRSVILLE — As far as midseason wins go, this one was pretty big for the Blairsville Bobcats.
Blairsville (5-1) won its fifth straight game, completing the regular-season sweep of Homer-Center by battering its rivals, 10-0, in a five-inning, mercy-rule-shortened Heritage Conference baseball game Thursday afternoon at WyoTech Park.
“We’ve got five wins in a row,” Blairsville coach Mark Zerfoss said, “and obviously two against a good team like Homer, and then when you 10-run them, these guys should have no doubt in their minds that they can compete with anybody, especially in this area.”
Homer-Center fell to 5-3, and lost the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bobcats with Thursday’s loss. First-place Ligonier Valley (6-0) remains the team to beat in the conference.
Scott Thompson, a sophomore catcher, clubbed a three-run homer well over the left-field fence, giving Blairsville a 4-0 first-inning lead after the Bobcats drew two walks to open the game and Bobby Thompson singled home Anthony Faulk.
“A 2-0 pitch, I’m just looking for one that I can drive and score some runs, and I found it and it worked out,” Scott Thompson said.
“You can’t walk people in high school baseball because about 50 to 60 percent of all your walks are going to score,” Homer-Center coach Scott Bauer said. “You walk back-to-back guys to lead off the game with their three- and four-hitters up — and both Thompson boys are good hitters — if you walk them, you’ve just got to take your medicine. That was big for them. That kind of fueled them a little bit, and after that I didn’t see the excitement in the body language of my players that I normally see.”
Blairsville beat Homer-Center, 4-2, on April 6 in Homer City. Thursday’s lopsided result was certainly a surprise, and the game’s end, when pitcher Reed Ratkus’ single drove in the Bobcats’ ninth and 10th runs in the fifth to enforce the mercy rule, even caught the Blairsville coach off guard.
“A win like that, I was surprised,” Zerfoss said. “I didn’t even realize it was 10 runs until everybody on the bench started saying it. I was so focused on getting runners around and worried about the game itself. I never realized it was 10 runs. To beat them by 10 runs, it’s a confidence builder. We’ve got some big games coming up, so hopefully we can ride the confidence and the good wave to some more victories.”
Blairsville visits Ligonier Valley on Monday.
“I told the guys today, this is a great win,” Zerfoss said. “I said, you can salivate over this win all weekend long, but come Sunday it’s a new week. We’ve got to start thinking baseball again, because we’ve got an undefeated team on Monday at their place. We’ve got to be ready to go on Monday.”
Bauer hopes to move on from the game a little more quickly.
“It’s not a season killer, absolutely not,” he said. “We’re trying to win the Heritage Conference, and we were kind of behind the 8-ball with the loss to Ligonier and the loss to these guys already. That really stacks the deck, because now we have two losses to them and we have another game in the balance with Ligonier Valley. But, like I told our guys, I think we’re one of the top three or four teams in the Heritage Conference. We’ve got to carry ourselves as such and play every inning and every pitch as such.”
The way Ratkus was working on the mound, Blairsville’s first-inning runs might have been enough, even through a full-length game.
The Bobcats kept on hitting, though. John Distefano went 3-for-3 and Nick Scribe was 2-for-2. Faulk, Bobby Thompson and Scott Thompson added two hits apiece to back Ratkus’ five scoreless innings. The senior righty struck out five and walked just one, yielding four hits.
“I was feeling good today,” Ratkus said. “I was warmed up better than the first game (of the season). I pitched against Marion Center; we actually lost. It was colder out. Today I was all warm, it felt good today.
“It’s kind of a little rivalry, but I knew we were going to beat them. I knew we could do it. We’ve got a good team.”
Ean Lee went 2-for-2 in the leadoff spot for Homer-Center.
“They’re a good team, but I don’t think they’re 10 runs better than us,” Bauer said. “For conference standings it means a lot. Obviously in the playoff picture for us, they’re a good team, we want to beat them. Usually we split with these guys. That’s the way it’s kind of gone down. Our guys are kind of bummed out they didn’t win.”