CENTER TOWNSHIP — I-Medical pitcher Dakota Byers thrives in pressure scenarios.
So when the hard-throwing right-hander found himself in a stressful situation in the top of the seventh inning, he naturally escaped without breaking a sweat.
With the tying run on third and the potential winning run at the plate, Byers induced a flyout to center field to end the game in I-Medical’s 5-4 win over West County in an elimination game of the Pennsylvania Youth American Legion Western Regional baseball tournament Sunday at Charlie Hogan Field.
Punxsutawney-based I-Medical, the Indiana County champ and returning regional runner-up, dropped its opening-round game to Farmington, 3-2, earlier in the day.
I-Medical faces county runner-up and returning regional champ S.W. Jack in another elimination game at 5 p.m. today.
“Dakota’s gritty. He’s definitely gritty and he’ll battle for you,” I-Medical manager Doug Pennington said. “He gets behind sometimes and gets a little caught up in things. But he always regains his composure and comes back and gets the job done.”
West County trailed 5-2 in the top of the seventh when Mike Connell ripped a two-run double off Byers to trim I-Medical’s lead to 5-4.
Connell moved to third on groundout to shortstop from Brenden Kohan on the next at-bat.
Then, with two outs, Byers baited Jared Hanas into flying out to center fielder Lance Pennington to end the game.
Byers struck out two, walked five and allowed six hits in a complete-game win.
“I’ve got some great things to say about that pitcher,” West County manager Mike Monico said. “There were multiple times from the first inning through the seventh that I didn’t think he was going to make it through the inning, or in some cases, the batter he was facing. But he came back, held his composure and threw strikes. I commend him. He threw a heck of a game.”
I-Medical nursed a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth before plating two runs on two hits, a walk and a hit batsman to make it a 5-2 game. Lance Pennington and Byers each singled and scored on wild pitches.
Lance Pennington led I-Medical by going 2-for-3 with three runs scored.
“You take them how you can get them,” Doug Pennington said. “On a day like today we just had to do what we had to do to score runs. We just weren’t hitting the ball today at all.”
In its opening-round game, I-Medical was limited to just one hit in the first six innings and trailed 3-0 heading into the seventh.
John Serian sparked a rally for I-Medical by ripping a two-out double into the left-center field gap. Back-to-back walks to Ryan Jones and Lance Pennington loaded the bases for Byers, who stroked a double down the left-field line to make it a 3-2 game.
However, Farmington ace Dom Peroni got I-Medical cleanup hitter Brandon Douthit to pop out to the catcher on the next at-bat to end the game.
Farmington mustered just six hits — five singles and a double — off Lance Pennington.
“He pitched a heck of a ballgame,” Doug Pennington said of Peroni. “He had us off balance today. I’m not sure why, but we just didn’t hit well. We left 10 or 11 guys on base, and out of those 10 or 11, probably eight of them were in scoring position. We had the bases loaded a couple times early in the game. We just couldn’t get a big hit. You’ve got to put the bat on the ball.”
Byers paced I-Medical by going 2-for-4.