First Posted: 5/17/2013
Michael “Bucky” Schwab appeared to be breezing along as he retired six straight batters to move Pittston Area within three outs of a District 2 Class AAA baseball road playoff victory.
Wheezing might be a better description for the way the bottom of the seventh inning started.
Schwab recovered from throwing 11 straight balls and escaped a series of predicaments to help the 12th-seeded Patriots hang on for a 4-3 victory over fifth-seeded Dallas in Friday’s first-round game.
The victory, coupled with Crestwood’s upset of fourth-seeded Tunkhannock, gives Pittston Area a surprise second-round home game Tuesday against the Comets.
Schwab overcame three straight walks to start the seventh and four total during the 31-pitch inning to retire one of the Wyoming Valley Conference’s most dangerous batters, clean-up hitter Brian Stepniak, on a groundball with the tying and winning runs on base.
During the struggles, Pittston Area coach Paul Zaffuto visited Schwab on the mound once. He stepped away from the dugout and toward the field a second time to shout encouragement to Schwab, letting him know the team trusted him to solve the difficulties.
“I credit my teammates and coach Zaff for calming me down, setting me right and getting my composure,” said Schwab, who for six innings had smoothly shut down an offense which averages more than 6 1/2 runs per game. “As a pitcher, when it starts to come off the train tracks a little bit, it starts to escalate.
“You start to think about things too much. All you need to do is focus on the target and hit the target.”
Gradually, Schwab became more effective at that, but it was not an easy process.
He needed help from the infield, which calmly handled a sacrifice bunt, a game-ending grounder and a daring play to keep the potential tying run from reaching third base.
On the groundball that cut the Pittston Area lead to one, shortstop Pat McGinty passed on the easy out at first to throw the ball to third where Justin Martinelli applied the tag on the lead runner.
First baseman Josh Razvillas had fielded a bunt for the first out of the inning and second baseman Felix Mascelli made the play for the final out.
The win allowed the Patriots to celebrate a playoff victory as the latest positive sign in what had been a difficult season.
“There were times this season when we were losing the style of games we were losing, when it would have been easy to put our heads down,” Zaffuto said. “We never put our heads down. We came to practice with our heads up everyday and said, ‘we can be 3-11, but we’re going to be the best 3-11 team in the state.’
“We made our minds up that whoever we faced in the first round was going to have problems.”
That team wound up being Dallas, which went to the last day of the regular season as a WVC Division 2 title contender and is now done for the year after the first day of the playoffs.
The Patriots advanced through their running game and superior infield play. They stole four bases and had another advance in a similar situation on defensive indifference.
Two of those situations allowed runners to score when they would have otherwise been stranded. While Dallas committed four infield throwing errors, Pittston Area played an error-free game and turned a double play.
All those little things were needed against Stepniak, who threw a six-hitter with eight strikeouts.
“Coach Zaff talked about it before the game,” Schwab said. “All the hard work that we did paid off; all the offseason work, all the bullpens, all the groundballs.
“We have progressed so far this year.”
The Patriots never trailed in their biggest win of the year. McGinty went 2-for-3. He led off the third and fifth innings with singles and scored the first two runs, putting Pittston Area ahead each time. McGinty stole second in the third and scored on an error.
Razvillas followed McGinty with a single in the fifth. Jordan Houseman’s groundball would have scored McGinty, but a throwing error allowed Razvillas to score as well.
Pittston Area made the lead, 4-1, on an error and Martinelli’s squeeze bunt in the sixth.
Schwab, who also had a hit and missed a potential three-run homer when it went foul by about 10 feet, finished off his own six-hitter. “Win or lose, we were going with him,” Zaffuto said.”He’s our guy.”
Wyoming Area 4
When a team gets two hit batsmen, two singles and a triple in the same inning and scores but one run, it can come back to haunt.
But Jake Granteed pitched a 2-hitter, walking only one and striking out seven, and the Warriors overcame their weird third inning to beat Honesdale 4-1 in a first round game of the District 2 AAA playoffs on Friday in West Pittston.
In the third with the game 0-0, the Warriors had runners on first and second with no outs with Nick O’Brien at bat. He missed a bunt attempt and Honesdale caught both WA runners off the bases and tagged them both out after rundowns. O’Brien ripped the next pitch to deep center for a triple. After a hit batsman but runners on first and third, Honesdale pitcher Dale Wiedner threw a pick off attempt wide to first base and O’Brien scored from third to make it 1-0.
WA got two more in the fourth and a single run in the fifth when O’Brien got an infield single, stole second and scored on a single by Zach Lopatka.
In the top of the seventh Honesdale’s Alex Evanitsky hit a home run down the right field line. It was the only hard hit ball off Granteed.
The Warriors top four batters Eric Walkowiak, O’Brien, Lopatka, and Trent Grove each two hits.
The Warriors advance to play Berwick at Berwick on Tuesday, Berwick beat GAR 10-0 on Friday in a first round game.