Back Mountain upends Pittston Area to force deciding game for Section 5 softball title

By Tom Robinson - For Times Leader
Back Mountain’s Victoria Spaciano slides in safe to third base during Friday’s Section 5 Major Softball game at Old Forge Little League. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Pittston Area’s Gianna Adams pitches against Back Mountain on Friday. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Maura Mihalka of Pittston Area runs after a hit against Back Mountain. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Back Mountain’s Victoria Spaciano pitches against Pittston Area in the Section 5 Little League Major Softball tournament at Old Forge Little League. - - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Back Mountain catcher Brenna Hunt tags out Pittston Area’s Maura Mihalka at home. - - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

OLD FORGE — Back Mountain turned to often untested fielders and stared down usually nonexistent clutch hitting situations Friday.

By conquering both, Back Mountain extended the Section 5 Little League Softball Major tournament to a winner-take-all Saturday game at 1 p.m. back in Old Forge.

Facing an elimination game – and a three-run deficit midway through it – Back Mountain rallied to hand Pittston Area its first loss 9-3 and force a rematch for the title.

“They’re very relaxed,” Back Mountain manager George Vitanovec said. “Even before the game, you would have no idea that this was an elimination game.”

Pittston Area had survived the winners bracket unscathed, allowing it to go into Friday with two shots at beating Back Mountain for the title.

Back Mountain made sure the second game was needed when, after going hitless through three innings, it put together nine hits in the final three. That included three extra-base hits, all from sixth or lower in the batting order and two of them coming from reserves in those spots.

“Some of the kids that have been struggling, I knew that they were good batters,” Vitanovec said. “Sooner or later, the law of averages says it’s going to happen.

“I have total confidence in all of our batters. Any one of them can do it.”

The section title is being decided by two playoff-experienced teams.

Pittston Area won the Section 5 title and went to the state tournament on the 9-11-year-old level last season when Back Mountain did the same in the tournament for 8-10-year-olds. With many of those players in action, both teams are trying to do it on Little League’s showcase level.

Both teams have often dominated on the district level, but have found new tests and new levels of competition at sectionals and above.

Vitanovec said his team has adjusted to facing consistently tougher pitching. It also responded to being asked to make more plays behind pitcher Victoria Spaciano.

The infield offset two errors by accounting for 11 of the 18 outs.

“As you can see, the fielding is starting to come around,” Vitanovec said. “Sometimes, you can fall asleep during districts because it’s pretty much pitching dominated.”

The bats responded with extra-base hits and multiple hits in each of the final three innings.

Amber Zimmerman, who has come off the bench to provide hits in each of the last three games, doubled in the first two runs on a play when Pittston Area outfielders Cassie Hintze and Katie Wywoda collided hard. Both were able to stay in the game.

Ava Smith, the last sub to bat, led off the fifth with a triple down the right-field line and scored the tying run.

Abby Cruz doubled to the left-field fence to drive in the go-ahead run and the first of six that Back Mountain scored in the final inning.

Spaciano did her part, striking out seven without walking a batter. She held Pittston Area scoreless over the final three innings.

While she was shutting down Pittston Area’s offense, Spaciano was helping jump-start Back Mountain’s. She had the team’s first hit and scored the first run, then led off the sixth with a hit, setting her up to score the winning run after stealing a base.

Olivia Walter went 3-for-3 for Pittston Area, driving in a run and scoring another in the second inning for the 3-0 lead.

SECTION 5 MAJOR SOFTBALL

Back Mountain 9, Pittston Area 3

Back Mountain`AB`R`H`BI

Hunt c`2`1`1`1

Hudak ss`4`0`0`0

Vitanovec 1b`4`0`1`1

Spaciano p`4`2`2`2

Beyer 2b`3`1`1`1

Cruz 3b`3`1`1`1

Porasky cf`1`1`0`0

Zimmerman cf`1`0`1`2

Palka rf`1`1`0`0

Hazeltine rf`1`0`0`0

Strobel lf`2`1`1`1

Smith lf`1`1`1`0

Totals`27`9`9`9

Pittston Area`AB`R`H`BI

Giardina ss`2`1`1`0

Jenkins ph`1`0`0`0

Hintze cf`2`0`0`0

Nowakowski ph`1`0`0`0

Callahan c`3`0`0`1

Adams p`2`0`0`0

McCawley ph`1`0`0`0

Antal 1b`3`1`1`0

Mihalka 3b`2`0`1`0

Walter 2b`3`1`3`1

Wywoda rf`2`0`0`0

Doran ph`1`0`0`0

Soto lf`1`0`0`0

Rinaldi ph`1`0`0`0

Totals`25`3`6`2

2B – Porasky, Cruz. 3B – Smith.

Back Mountain`000`216`— 9

Pittston Area`120`0`— 3

Back Mountain`IP`H`R`ER`BB`SO

Spaciano (W)`6.0`6`3`2`0`7

Pittston Area`IP`H`R`ER`BB`SO

Adams (L)`6.0`9`9`5`4`4

Back Mountain’s Victoria Spaciano slides in safe to third base during Friday’s Section 5 Major Softball game at Old Forge Little League.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_TTL070718Bmtn-softball4.jpgBack Mountain’s Victoria Spaciano slides in safe to third base during Friday’s Section 5 Major Softball game at Old Forge Little League. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Pittston Area’s Gianna Adams pitches against Back Mountain on Friday.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_TTL070718Bmtn-softball5.jpgPittston Area’s Gianna Adams pitches against Back Mountain on Friday. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Maura Mihalka of Pittston Area runs after a hit against Back Mountain.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_TTL070718Bmtn-softball2.jpgMaura Mihalka of Pittston Area runs after a hit against Back Mountain. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Back Mountain’s Victoria Spaciano pitches against Pittston Area in the Section 5 Little League Major Softball tournament at Old Forge Little League.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_TTL070718Bmtn-softball3.jpgBack Mountain’s Victoria Spaciano pitches against Pittston Area in the Section 5 Little League Major Softball tournament at Old Forge Little League. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Back Mountain catcher Brenna Hunt tags out Pittston Area’s Maura Mihalka at home.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_TTL070718Bmtn-softball1.jpgBack Mountain catcher Brenna Hunt tags out Pittston Area’s Maura Mihalka at home. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
D31 champ will face D16 champ Pittston Area again for Section 5 title

By Tom Robinson

For Times Leader

Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLSports

Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLSports