May 29—Bishop McCort Catholic trailed by seven runs heading into the seventh inning of Saturday's District 6 Class 1A baseball semifinal contest against visiting Juniata Valley, and although the Crimson Crushers rallied to bring the tying run to the plate with two outs, it wasn't enough.
The Hornets held on for a 7-3 win at Sargent's Stadium at the Point to earn a berth in the championship game.
The Crimson Crushers (13-8) were held to just one hit and no runs through the first six innings, but catcher Joe McGowan led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to right, and Nate Conrad followed with a walk. One out later, designated hitter Roman Fetzko was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and left fielder Ian Verhovsek then drew a walk to force in courtesy runner Ethan Kasper, putting McCort on the board.
Hornets reliever Dalton Dick then walked the first batter he faced; Colin Stevens's base on balls scored Conrad to make it 7-2. Dick then fanned Jordan Page, but Mason Pfeil's infield single to short brought home Fetzko to keep the Crushers' hopes alive and bring Brendon Bair to the plate with the bases loaded.
Bair smacked a liner to center, but Juniata Valley center fielder Bryant Allison was able to track it down to close out the game and send his team to the championship against Moshannon Valley on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. at Altoona's People's Natural Gas Field.
"We played a very talented team that is well-coached," said Bishop McCort coach Chris Pfeil. "They got an early lead and added to it, and we dug ourselves a hole. ... Their pitcher did a good job of hitting his spots, and we never got into an offensive rhythm, but I was proud of how we were able to scrap back and give ourselves a chance in that last inning."
"Bishop McCort is a quality opponent and you can never rest against a team like that," said Juniata Valley coach Jeff Hensor, whose team improved to 14-5. "Our kids don't normally get caught up in the ebb and flow of a game, so even when that seventh inning got a little off the rails, we didn't lose our composure."
Winning pitcher T.J. Wilson threw five shutout innings with five strikeouts and no walks, and he was staked to an early lead as the Hornets tallied three runs after two down in the top of the first.
Catcher Trey Wilson reached on an error, and T.J. Wilson followed with a single. Allison's run-scoring single then drove in courtesy runner Carter Rowe to open the scoring, and after Dick walked to load the bases, third baseman Reid Edwards drilled a shot to right-center field just out of the reach of Stevens to make it 3-0.
Juniata Valley added to the lead in the next inning. Shortstop Jake Johnson stole second after reaching on a one-out single, and he then came around to score on a throwing error on Nick Morningstar's bunt attempt. The Hornets later loaded the bases with two outs, but Mason Pfeil got Dick looking to get out of further trouble.
Another scoring opportunity for the Hornets came up empty in the fourth, as two walks and an infield single by Dick loaded the bases against Bair, but he retired Edwards on a groundout to keep it 4-0.
"They had a couple of chances to break the game open, but we were able to minimize the damage," Pfeil said.
Bair worked himself out of another jam in the fifth, as a leadoff walk to Nick Sodmont, a passed ball and a bunt single by J.T. Rodkey put runners at the corners with no outs. However, Bair struck out Johnson and Morningstar, then retired Trey Wilson on a fly to left.
"We had missed opportunities that almost came back to haunt us," said Hensor.
The Hornets plated two more runs in the sixth and one in the seventh. Three straight walks loaded the bases with no outs, and Edwards's sacrifice fly that scored Mason Buckley was followed by a wild pitch that allowed Allison to score to make it 6-0.
Johnson, who had three of Juniata Valley's nine hits, led off the seventh with a double and scored on Trey Wilson's single for the final Hornet run.
Juniata Valley will now attempt to defeat ICC rival Moshannon Valley for the third time this season in the title game.