BLAIRSVILLE — Blairsville’s first Indiana County League championship series game in 10 years was one the Colts would soon like to forget.
Blairsville’s bats fell flat while Bovard pounded out 17 hits, and the Bison fired the first shot with a 10-1 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-seven finals Thursday evening at One River Field.
The series shifts to Bovard for Game 2 at 5:45 p.m. today.
“They showed up and hit the ball,” Blairsville player/manager Joe Culler said, “and I think all of our guys realized hitting the ball is going to be the name of the game this series. We’ll just take it as a chip on our shoulder. We’ve got to forget about it quickly and move on to tomorrow.”
Bovard (24-4-1), the two-time defending champion, made the championship series for the fourth straight year and fifth time in six years, while Blairsville (26-5-1), the 2013 regular-season champion, hadn’t made the finals since 2003. It was business as usual for the Bison on Thursday, but Culler said the Game 1 result wasn’t the result of stage fright on his club’s part.
“I don’t necessarily think so,” he said. “You have to give a lot of credit to Bovard. They showed up to play baseball today, and they outplayed us. They beat us in pretty much every aspect. They fielded the ball in important situations and had some key hits.”
Bovard jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning and added on single runs in the third and fifth before breaking the game open with a six-run seventh inning.
Eight of the nine batters in the starting lineup recorded at least one hit in the game, as did the two substitutions. Nick Fetterman went 3-for-4 and Zack Martin 3-for-5, and both players scored twice.
“These guys have been playing together the last three years,” Bovard player/manager Mike Johnson said. “It’s nice. Everybody’s comfortable where they’re at.”
Everybody likes playing together, and they’re all good baseball players.”
Fetterman smashed a towering home run to right field in the third inning. Bovard extended its lead to 4-0 in the fifth inning, when Steve Anderson and Martin started the inning with singles, chasing Blairsville starting pitcher Jarred Pennavaria, then the Bison scratched out a run against Culler.
Blairsville’s bats finally found life in the sixth inning when Dan Leonard laced a double to left field to plate Ben Doak for the Colts’ lone run. That ended Pat Kohl’s night, and Anderson shut Blairsville down the rest of the way.
Kohl, the Bovard starter, struck out four and walked two in five innings for the win, and Anderson pitched two scoreless innings of relief in yet another stifling finals pitching performance by the Bison.
“P.K. threw the ball really well,” Johnson said. “He threw strikes. He kept them to one run. That’s a very tough thing to do against a Blairsville team, so I give him a lot of credit.”
“I think our guys were a little bit tight,” Culler said. “We were pressing a little bit at the plate, trying to produce once we were behind, but we’ll bounce back.”
The Bison had five straight hits to start the seventh, sending 10 men to the plate in the inning. The side-arming Culler stayed on the mound for all of it, taking one for the team in another way so as not to use any other pitchers with the potential of six more games in the next seven days.
“I don’t really need any rest,” he said. “I can throw whenever, so it’s better to waste me off. … It’s not that I was making bad pitches; I just think they were hitting good pitches.”
Blairsville won two and lost one of the teams’ regular-season meetings, with the two also tying a game.
“Right now it’s pretty much even up, 2-2-1 (on the season),” Culler said. “I don’t really anticipate (the finals) going four games. I think it will be a test of, first off, our hitting, and then how long our pitchers can last, and theirs as well. I think both teams are a little thin as far as starting pitching goes, but we’ll see as the series progresses.”
Bovard, which won last year’s finals in a sweep and lost the 2010 series in four straight, still wasn’t going to admit to having much of an advantage from having won Game 1.
“It’s always nice to get ahead,” Johnson said, “but it’s a seven-game series and Joe will have a good lineup ready for us tomorrow.”