Marion Center and Armstrong took the first step in advancing to the Indiana County Youth Legion championship series by winning the openers of their best-of-three semifinal playoff series Monday.
Marion Center, which finished first in the regular-season standings, opened with a 3-0 victory over fourth-place S&T Bank, and Armstrong, which finished third, knocked off second-place S.W. Jack, 10-3.
The series resume this evening at Punxsutawney and Kittanning. If Marion Center and Armstrong score sweeps, the championship series will begin Wednesday. Otherwise, the third game of one or both series will be staged Wednesday, with the championship series to begin Thursday.
The county champion and runner-up join host team S&T Bank in the Western Regional tournament at Punxsutawney on July 16 to 19. The state tournament is July 24 to 28 at Berwick.
A trio of Marion Center pitchers held S&T Bank to one hit. Owen Conner posted the win, striking out five and walking two and yielding the lone hit to the second batter of the first inning.
Grant Casses and Braden Reichenbach each pitched an inning in relief. Reichenbach struck out the three batters he faced in the seventh to earn the save.
Offensively, Marion Center scored lone runs in the first, second and sixth innings. The first run scored on a bases-loaded error, the second on Austin Chambers’ sacrifice fly and the third on back-to-back doubles by Travis Midock and Noah McCoy.
Midock finished with two of his team’s eight hits, and he and McCoy had the only extra-base hits of the game.
Don Bender and Seth Moore split six innings on the mound for S&T Bank.
Armstrong took a 3-0 lead over S.W. Jack, which forged a tie in the third inning. Armstrong broke out for four runs on the fifth and scored three over the final two innings.
Armstrong managed three hits and three runs — none earned — against Armstrong starter Chase Jablonski.
Brayden Wright came on for 32/3 innings of hitless and scoreless relief. Nick Kinter got the final out.
The top of Armstrong’s order did major damage, with Logan Gawlinski, Jablonski and Haden Brink each stroking three hits. Brink, who doubled, drove in three runs.
Wright also chipped in three hits and an RBI.
Two of Gawlinski’s hits were doubles, and Jablonski, Kaiden Scheeren and Ryan Waugman each pounded out a double.
Armstrong scored in the fifth on Logan Badac’s sacrifice fly, Scheeren’s double, Wright’s single and Jaden Sims’ groundout.
Michael Dolan and Michael Tortorella accounted for their team’s hits with two each, including a double apiece.