Greater Pittston won two of its three games in the Wyoming Valley Junior American Legion Baseball Junior to land a spot in Pennsylvania regional tournament play.
After splitting its first two playoff games, Greater Pittston needed a win over Back Mountain July 14 in order to extend its season.
Derek Cunius led the team through that challenge, battling through a complete game on the mound and going 2-for-2 with three runs scored in the 8-7 victory.
Teams often have to go beyond their usual pitching options deep in tournament play and with Greater Pittston running low on pitching, manager Lou Falzone turned to Cunius, one of the team leaders throughout the season.
“He didn’t pitch a great game stats-wise,” Falzone said. “But he gutted it out, kept his composure and kept battling.
“He kept us in the game, gave us a chance to make a comeback and we did.”
Back Mountain scored twice each in the top of the fourth and fifth innings of the seven-inning game to take a 7-4 lead.
Greater Pittston scored two runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to pull out the win.
Jason Wiedl reached on an error to start the bottom of the fifth. Steve Sciandra singled. Max Rosen’s two-out single drove them both in.
Gavin Lahart walked with one out in the sixth, stole second and took third on a Cunius single. After Cunius took second, Adam Wisniewski’s single drove in the tying and winning runs.
Cunius was hit by two pitches, stole two bases, and drove in a run. He did not walk a batter in seven innings, helping him finish in 98 pitches while striking out three and giving up seven runs (four earned) on seven hits.
Sciandra and Rosen each had two hits.
The game was the second one-run victory of the playoffs with elimination at stake.
Matt Sorick’s bases-loaded single in the bottom of the sixth inning broke a tie in the opener and lifted Greater Pittston past Mountain Post, 4-3, and into the four-team, double-elimination portion of the tournament.
Sorick reached base in all three plate appearances. Wiedl had a two-run single in the second inning to open the scoring and finished 2-for-3.
Jeremy Lavelle had an RBI double in the third.
Eventual tournament champion Swoyersville shut out Greater Pittston, 10-0, in the semifinals.
After Greater Pittston secured one of Wyoming Valley’s berths in three different regional tournaments around the state, it received a forfeit over Stripes & Strikes from Hazleton in a game that would have determined second place and seeding on the regional level.
Stripes & Strikes lost players to injury during an 8-1 loss to Swoyersville, leading to the forfeit in the next round because of a lack of available players.
Greater Pittston went 1-2 in the Wyoming Valley Senior playoffs and was unable to advance.
Stripes & Strikes eliminated Greater Pittston, 3-2, July 15 on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Greater Pittston had taken advantage of errors to break the shutout and tie the game, 2-2, in the top of the inning.
Tyler Jackson had two hits in the loss.
Nate Baranski’s four-hit shutout lifted top-seeded Swoyersville over Greater Pittston, the tournament host, 7-0, in the previous round.
Greater Pittston knocked out Tunkhannock, 4-0, in the preliminary round July 13 when Jackson threw a six-hit shutout.
Jackson did not allow a runner past second base until the seventh inning.
“I was going to my off-speed more than my fastball just because when I get ahead in the count I use my offspeed,” Jackson said.
Hunter Ralston had a two-run double in the sixth inning.
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