Tunkhannock manager Scott Zaner has full confidence in Cody Brown. So when Brown came up in the sixth inning with a chance to break a 1-1 deadlock, Zaner was not surprised when he ripped a two-run double to right-center, propelling Tunkhannock to a 3-1 win over defending tournament and regional champ Greater Pittston in the Wyoming Valley American Legion Baseball playoffs Monday afternoon.
“Even though Cody is one of our younger players, he always comes through,” Zaner said. “He’s a player.”
Tunkhannock rode the arm of Josh McClain for much of the game before the bats came alive. McClain was perfect in for the first three innings en route to a complete game four-hitter, allowing only one run with six strikeouts and no walks.
“Josh pitched a heck of a game,” Zaner said. “He has pitched well for us all year.”
Tunkhannock scored its first run of the game in the bottom of the third inning. McClain helped his causewith an RBI double to left-center that scored Brown and provided a 1-0 lead.
Greater Pittston rallied back the next inning and loaded the bases with no outs.
But a recipe for disaster quickly turned into one of baseball’s magical plays.
On a ground ball to short, Brown flipped to Lance Ceccarelli for the force at second, who then fired to Ryan Weiss at first for the out. Weiss then made the heads-up play to fire home to catcher Race Sick, who tagged out the runner trying to score from second.
Tunkhannock escaped allowing just one run to preserved the 1-1 tie.
“I have never been involved in a ballgame with a triple play,” Zaner said. “That was fantastic. It gave us a little bit of momentum.”
After stranding eight runners on base, Zaner knew it would only be a matter of time before Tunkhannock cashed in.
“Honestly, the way we were hitting lately, I thought we would come through,” he said. “It was a matter of getting the right guys up at the right time. We executed well tonight.”
The right guys came up in the sixth.
Bob Gilpin led off with a single. After a strikeout and a fielder’s choice, Lance Sherry ripped a grounder through the hole into right field that came within millimeters of striking Gilpin’s foot.
The stage was set for Brown and he delivered, roping a liner into the right-center field gap that plated both runners and gave Tunkhannock a 3-1 lead.
“I was looking for a fastball to drive,” Brown said. “It was on the outside corner so I took it the other way.”
McClain struck out two Greater Pittston hitters in the seventh and forced a groundout to ensure the victory.
With the win, Tunkhannock (14-5) was scheduled to play Nanticoke (11-7) yesterday in the finals at Spartan Stadium at 5:30 p.m., but if the game was postponed because of rain, it will be played today at 3 p.m.
Tunkhannock needs to defeat Nanticoke twice to win its first-ever tournament title, so the second game would be played at 5:30 p.m.
It will be the fourth time both teams have squared off this season, with Nanticoke taking the most recent victory in an 8-2 win in Saturday’s opening round. Before that, Tunkhannock won both games by a combined score of 12-8.
Before beating Greater Pittston, Tunkhannock survived elimination by knocking off the No. 1 seed Plains, 4-3, on Sunday.
After losing 8-2 to Nanticoke in the opening round game on Saturday, Ty Weiss took the mound for the No. 2 seeded Tunkhannock with the weight of the season on his shoulders.
He didn’t disappoint.
Weiss pitched a complete game, scattering nine hits over three runs, but retiring the last eight batters he faced to secure the win.
Tunkhannock opened the game with a run in the first and look poised to stay alive, but Plains responded with one run in the third, fourth and fifth innings, and led 3-2 heading into the sixth.
That’s when Tunkhannock was able to capitalize of an error, which ended up bringing home two runs that would prove to be enough of a lead.
Ryan Weiss led Tunkhannock at the plate with an RBI triple and a single, while also coming around to score. Sean Soltysiak also drove in a run while Sherry, Sick and Ceccarelli each came around to score.
On Saturday, there wasn’t much Tunkhannock could do to cool off the Nanticoke offense.
Nanticoke pelted Tunkhannock for 13 hits, including at least one hit each inning and one run scored in all but one inning.
Though Nanticoke opened with a run in the first, it appeared that Tunkhannock would go blow-for-blow with their counterparts early on.
Three of Tunkhannock’s first four batters reached base in the first, which tied the score, and the offense would secure a hit in each of the next three innings, but couldn’t capitalize.
On the other hand, Nanticoke took the lead with a run in the second, and broke the game open with three runs in the third to take a 5-2 lead.
From then on, Nanticoke shut down Tunkhannock’s bats and allowed no hits after Jordan Hannon laced a lead-off double in the fourth.
Soltysiak led Tunkhannock with two hits, including a double, and drove in a run while also coming around to score. McClain also doubled and drove in a run.
McClain took the loss on the mound, allowing five earned runs off eight hits in three innings while striking out two.
Sports editor John Lund also contributed to the story.