TUNKHANNOCK – The optimistic view is that the Pittston Area and Tunkhannock pitchers and defense repeatedly worked their way out of jams Friday.
The pessimistic outlook would be that the two struggling teams missed repeated scoring opportunities.
What is beyond debate is that when the two last-place teams met, it was the Patriots who found a way to produce a much-needed victory.
Dylan Spurlin doubled in the game-winning run in the eighth inning and relief pitcher Tyler Jackson stranded five Tigers in the final two innings to lift the Patriots to a 3-1, extra-inning victory.
“We need every one we can get,” Pittston Area coach Paul Zaffuto said.
Pittston Area improved to 3-6 to catch Coughlin for fourth place in Division 1 of the Wyoming Valley Conference. Tunkhannock is fifth, and last, in Division 2 at 2-6.
“The way the season’s been going so far, we’re struggling at 3-6,” Zaffuto said. “We’re a lot better than 3-6.
“The only thing we’re lacking is team speed.”
Zaffuto said he still believes in the small-ball approach to building runs, but it is made a little more difficult without speed on the bases and the team has been having trouble producing the timely hits once it moves runners into scoring position.
It doesn’t help that the Patriots have run into a steady stream of quality pitching and what Zaffuto thinks has been more top-notch defensive plays than usual.
Friday, it was Tunkhannock pitcher Cody Brown snagging one hard-hit ball in self-defense to wipe out a lead runner and making another incredible diving stop to take away what would have been a hit up the middle.
“I’ve never seen defense played like this,” Zaffuto said.
Pittston Area got a runner as far as third base in each of the first four innings.
The Patriots took the lead in the fourth inning.
Spurlin led off with a single. Jeff Donnora bunted his courtesy runner, Albert Zuba, to second and starting pitcher Joe DeLucca singled to left for the RBI.
DeLucca stranded two Tunkhannock runners on base in three out of four innings to get to the sixth inning with a 1-0 lead.
When Tunkhannock put together two straight hits with one out, Rob Wychock came on in relief.
Bob Gilpin greeted Wychock with a game-tying single to left field, but the reliever got consecutive groundballs to escape the inning tied, 1-1.
Pittston Area used three hits, two walks and a sacrifice to build its winning rally in the top of the eighth.
Kyle O’Fier singled in another run.
“We don’t have an overpowering pitching staff, but what’s been working against us has been working for us, too,” Zaffuto said. “They’re throwing first-pitch strikes and saying ‘go ahead, put the ball in play.’
“Our pitchers are around the zone and are giving us an opportunity to make plays behind them. Whether we make them or not is the difference in the ball game.”
DeLuca also finished with two hits.
Wyoming Area 8, Coughlin 2
Josh Kopcza led the way as Wyoming Area recovered from its first loss to defeat Coughlin, 8-2, in a WVC Division 1-2 crossover game.
Kopcza struck out seven without walking a batter and went 4-for-4 with two RBI.
Wyoming Valley West 9, Wyoming Area 1
Ryan Hogan drove in four runs Wednesday as Wyoming Valley West defeated host Wyoming Area, 9-1, to avenge its only WVC loss from a year ago.
Dallas 10, Pittston Area 2
Nick Kocher threw a three-hitter Wednesday to lead Dallas to a 10-2 win over Pittston Area in a WVC Division 1-2 game.
Kyle O’Fier singled, doubled, scored a run and drove in another for the Patriots. Alex McAndrew doubled and drove in a run.
Berwick 2, Pittston Area 0
Alex McAndrew threw a five-hitter Monday at Berwick, but it was not enough for Pittston Area, which fell, 2-0, in a WVC Division 1-2 game.
Wyoming Area 7, Crestwood 3
Wyoming Area stole seven bases, including five in the five-run third inning, Monday when Wyoming Area defeated Crestwood, 7-3, in a WVC Division 1-2 game.