HUGHESTOWN – By the time the 15th annual Andy Ashby Game finally got played Tuesday evening, the Wyoming Area and Pittston Area baseball teams had been turned upside down by switches to three different dates and three different locations.
Even Tuesday’s start was delayed when the venue was changed from Atlas Field to the Pittston Area Primary Center where the new artificial turf infield was more suited to waiting out a thunderstorm. Wyoming Area maintained the official home team status, batting last and leaving its score-by-innings to be displayed next to “Patriots” on the bottom line of the scoreboard.
The teams were racing darkness by the time they finished, but one of the biggest plays on a wacky night of baseball turned out to be a “groundball” that was lost in the sun.
Derek Cunis drove in two runs with a sixth-inning chopper to first base to help the Patriots pull away for a 15-9 Wyoming Valley Conference crossover victory.
It was a big change from last year’s meeting at PNC Field when Josh Kopcza came within four outs of a no-hitter in Wyoming Area’s 4-1 win.
“I don’t know what to expect with our squad anymore,” Pittston Area coach Paul Zaffuto said. “All I know is we put together good at-bats all the time.
“We hope that our pitching and defense comes along day to day. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Wyoming Area had cut an early six-run deficit in half before Pittston Area scored a run and put two men on with out in the sixth on a hit, an error and a hit batter.
With the sun setting low to the left of home plate, Cunis bounced a ball off the turf. Wyoming Area first baseman C.J. Rome started in, looked up and had to duck as he lost sight of the ball.
The fortunate hit for Cunis completed a three-run inning for a 13-7 lead and was part of a big night for the sixth, seventh and eighth spots in the Pittston Area batting order.
Johnny DeLuca drove in four runs from the sixth spot.
Catcher Dylan Spurlin, batting seventh, had three hits and drove in three runs to receive the game’s Most Valuable Player award from former Major League pitcher Ashby.
“This means a lot,” Spurlin said. “I’m happy to take this home for my team.
“We’ve had some interesting games this year. It feels great to put that much on the board.”
Kevin Krawczyk, Joe Stella, Riley Brody and eighth hitter Cunis each finished with two of Pittston Area’s 14 hits.
“We put together enough hits and enough runners to give us a nice cushion,” Zaffuto said.
Joe Cencetti, pitching for just the second time this season on his way back from a knee injury, allowed just one earned run in four innings of relief for the win.
The teams combined to produce runs in the first five at-bats to start the game.
“We knew that Pittston can swing it,” said Rob Lemoncelli, a former Pittston Area assistant who is in his first season as Wyoming Area head coach. “We knew that if we didn’t have the pitching this day we’d have to get into a shootout.”
Pittston Area scored four times in the top of the first and had leads of 9-3 after 1 ½ innings and 10-4 after 2 ½.
“It was a slugfest,” Lemoncelli said. “They had a couple bleeders today that dropped in early and changed the course of the game, but we’re ready to make our run come tournament time.”
Leadoff hitter Dylan Melberger was 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI for Wyoming Area. C.J. Rome was 3-for-4 with a double, a run and an RBI. Matt Wright added two hits and two RBI.
Both teams finished fourth out of five teams in their divisions.
Pittston Area, a Division 1 member, went 7-6. Wyoming Area, a Division 2 team, was 5-8.
Official District 2 playoff pairings were delayed by postponements holding up the completion of some teams’ seasons.
Pittston Area appears to be set as the fourth seed of seven teams in Class 5A and is likely to host Wallenpaupack in the quarterfinals when the tournament opens this week.
Wyoming Area is likely to be the fifth or sixth seed of eight in Class 4A. Its most likely opener would be on the road at Tunkhannock or Berwick.
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