By Tom Robinson
For Sunday Dispatch
NANTICOKE – Joe Gavenonis briefly thought he had his first home run of the Wyoming Valley American Legion Baseball season Wednesday.
Gavenonis experienced the same feeling Friday.
Both balls landed just short of clearing the fence, but each were a big part of making sure Greater Pittston is back on track as it prepares to head for the stretch run of the Wyoming Valley American Legion Baseball League.
Gavenonis drove in three runs and the top seven players in the lineup all had hits Friday afternoon when Greater Pittston knocked off league-leading Nanticoke, 9-6.
After taking a week off while the team’s many recent graduates were on senior trips, Greater Pittston returned to action with two tough losses in a doubleheader at Tunkhannock.
Friday’s win was the third straight by Greater Pittston, which settled into third place, closed in on clinching a playoff berth and kept itself in title contention going into the final week of the regular season.
“They came out after losing two Sunday and they’re playing with a little more fire now,” Greater Pittston manager Jerry Ranieli said. “They’re playing with a little more excitement than when they were all excited about going to the shore.”
Gavenonis broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth with his double Wednesday.
“Coming back from Maryland and having to get right back into play was hard,” Gavenonis said. “We didn’t have practice and nobody was ready for it.
“Now, we’re all ready. We’re all focusing in on the team and we’re all starting to hit the ball.”
Greater Pittston plays twice Sunday, hosting Nanticoke at 1 and going to Plains for a 5:45 game. It plays at defending champion and current second-place team Swoyersville Monday, hosts Valley Tuesday and finishes up the regular-season at Mountain Post Thursday.
The hectic finish is likely to be followed by the start of playoffs Saturday with four teams pursuing two regional berths in a double-elimination tournament.
Nanticoke is 14-2, Swoyersville 11-2, Greater Pittston 9-4, Valley 8-6, Tunkhannock 9-7, Plains 7-8 and Mountain Post 6-9.
Greater Pittston Senior 9
Jeremy Zezza and Joe Gavenonis each provided two-run doubles in the 9-6 win over host Nanticoke.
Zezza was the last of six straight batters to reach in the first inning for a 4-0 lead.
Gavenonis capped a three-run sixth inning by sending a shot off the left-field fence for a 9-3 lead.
“I thought it was gone,” Gavenonis said. “After about two seconds in the air, I could tell it was not quite. I still hope to get one.”
Gavenonis also drew a bases-loaded walk and Tyler Mitchell delivered a run-scoring single in the first after the first three batters reached on balls in the infield – two errors and Cory Lescavage’s bunt single.
Nanticoke rallied with three runs in the third when winning pitcher Lucas Jurchak walked four.
Evan Musto got a two-run fourth started and, after an error, produced one run, Steve Homza drove in another with the first of his two hits.
Zach Lopatka, who scored three runs, singled in the first run of the sixth.
Nanticoke rallied for three more in the seventh, but Jurchak finished off a six-hitter.
“He was pitching a great game,” Greater Pittston manager Jerry Ranieli said of Jurchak, who finished up. “He was still under 100 pitches; he felt strong; and he was on full rest.”
Greater Pittston Senior 5
Jeremy Zezza threw a four-hit shutout and Joe Gavenonis went 3-for-3 Wednesday to lead Greater Pittston past Valley, 5-0.
Zezza walked one and struck out six.
After driving in the first run with a double, Gavenonis scored the second in a five-run fifth.
Greater Pittston Senior 11
Zach Lopatka went 3-for-4 with a double, triple and walk to lead Greater Pittston to an 11-3 romp over Wilkes-Barre Monday.
Jeremy Zezza contributed a triple while Joe Gavenonis had a hit and scored twice.
Robbie Wychock went the distance, striking out six and holding Wilkes-Barre scoreless over the final four innings.
Greater Pittston Senior 6-4
Greater Pittston returned from more than a week off and was swept in a June 28 doubleheader at Tunkhannock, 7-6, 6-4.
Tunkhannock handed Greater Pittston a pair of hard-luck losses, coming from behind in the bottom of the seventh inning to take the opener, then winning the second game in nine innings.
Lucas Jurchak struck out 12 in seven innings of the nightcap for Greater Pittston and did not get a decision.
Steve Homza had a single and double in the first game while Tyler Jackson drove in two runs.
Plains Senior 0
Swoyersville shut out Plains, 7-0, June 28.
John Fagotti and Brandon Butry had the hits for Plains.
Plains Senior 3
Plains suffered its second straight defeat, falling at Valley Monday, 12-3.
After winning its first 13 games, Greater Pittston suffered its first loss of the Wyoming Valley League Youth Legion season Thursday, 2-0, against Swoyersville.
Plains won three straight games to improve to 9-6 on the season. It defeated Tunkhannock, 4-1, Monday; shut out Nanticoke, 10-0, Wednesday and won at second-place Mountain Post, 5-3, Thursday.
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