SOMERSET — With eight regular-season losses, Marion Center didn’t look like an attractive pick to outlast all the area’s elite teams at the regional tournament.
In the same vein, Marion Center played its best baseball in the county tournament, and at the very least, appeared to be an extremely tough team to put away.
Scrappy Marion Center nearly pulled off an epic rally, only to run out of pitching and succumb to Philipsburg’s venomous lineup in a 15-11 loss in an elimination game of the Pennsylvania Senior American Legion Region 7 tournament Sunday at Somerset High School.
Philipsburg advances to play Indiana County regular-season champion Kovacik Insurance in the double-elimination tournament today. Marion Center (17-10), the Indiana County playoff champ, concluded its season.
“It was all bad but if we don’t give them those eight runs in the second inning it’s a different story,” Marion Center manager Joe Bunyak said.
“We were throwing balls around (and) walking guys. The catcher missed like two or three pitches in the dirt. They scored like five runs on no hits. You can’t win when you do that and we found that out.”
Philipsburg trailed 1-0 before plating eight runs on four hits, four walks and two errors in the bottom of the second inning.
Philipsburg added a run in the third and then plated four runs on five hits in the fourth to swell its lead to 13-2.
“Our game has always been to hit-and-run and be aggressive,” Philipsburg assistant coach Chris Belinda said. “We saw that there was a couple of weaker spots on the field that we could take advantage of and exploit and we did.”
Bunyak shuffled his lineup in the fourth and replaced some key starters with bench players, a move that paid major dividends for Marion Center.
In the top of the fifth, Marion Center used five walks, three hits and an error to score eight runs, trimming Philipsburg’s lead to 13-10. Seth Goodlin highlighted the rally with a three-run single.
“I made some personnel changes and it kind of sparked them because some of the guys got mad that I did it,” Bunyak said. “But it kind of turned things around. We just ran out of fire power.”
Jake Belinda doubled, stole third and scored on an error in the sixth to extend Philipsburg’s lead to 14-10. Kyle Johns then walked, stole second and scored on a groundball to pad the lead to 15-10.
Over the last four innings, Marion Center mustered just three hits, two of which were singles from C.J. Stiles, and one run as the comeback attempt fizzled out.
Marion Center amassed 11 hits but stranded 16 runners.
Bunyak admitted that the postseason grind finally caught up with his resilient Marion Center team.
“It definitely had an effect on things,” Bunyak said. “You figure, within the last three weeks, we’ve played a whole lot of games. We played 13 out of 14 days and then we had three days off and came back for two (games). That’s 15 in 19 days and that’s a lot of games.”
Stiles paced Marion Center by going 4-for-5. Jared Selkirk singled three times and drove in a run.