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 Saturday, July 8, 2000

SPORTS

 A-56 


 

Tri-County edges Blue Mountain, 3-2, in -- of all things -- a pitcher's duel

Both leagues have plenty of All-Star sluggers, but Friday was hurlers' night to shine.



Of The Morning Call


 

Between them, the Tri-County and Blue Mountain leagues boast more .400 hitters than Carter has Little Liver Pills.

Bring them together for an all-star game at idyllic Fegeley Stadium in Limeport and you expect a final score of something like oh, say 14-13.

You most assuredly do not expect a 3-2 game.

But that's exactly what 400 or so lovers of amateur hardball got.

After snapping a long string of frustrating losses to its older rival league with a high-scoring, come-from-behind win in 1999, the Tri-Countians made it two in a row Friday night with a pitching-and- defense-dominated 3-2 victory.

As was to be expected, the BML did not go quietly into the brisk summer night. Trailing 3-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, it mounted a determined ninth-inning rally. It fell one short only because of the clutch pitching of Limeport Bulls southpaw Chad Arnold and a pair of big-league defensive plays by Gabelsville third baseman Shawn Betz.

Banko's Tom Stoudt drew a leadoff walk from Tri-City's Josh Gunkle, who had worked a scoreless eighth. Arnold came on to face lefty-swinging Tucker Csencsits of Catasauqua, but Csensits sent Stoudt to third with a sharp single just inside the first-base bag.

Stoudt scored and the BML had runners at first and second with none out when Tri-City's Teague Fatzinger bobbled Chris Saylor's chopper over the mound.

Betz then turned in his first gem, fielding the Yankees' Paul Woodling's attempted sacrifice bunt and forcing Saylor at second. Hellertown's Mark Nicholas then smacked a one-hopper at Betz. He fielded it and threw a strike to catcher Jeremy Arner to nail Csencsits at the plate.

Arnold then retired hard-hitting Andy Pitsilos on a comebacker to end the game.

"I didn't even want to pitch," Arnold admitted. "I threw Wednesday, and I'm hoping to throw our big game against Tri-City Monday. Once I got in, though, the adrenalin started flowing. I knew most of the guys I faced because I pitched against them a lot when I was with Martins Creek in that league. Maybe that helped."

Arnold was the eighth TCL pitcher. Every one of them, and all nine who worked for the BML, pitched solidly.

"It just goes to show that, no matter how good hitters are, good pitching will still prevail," said TCL Manager Bob Fatzinger of Tri- City. "That's what this game was -- great pitching, good hitting and just a couple timely hits."

"I'm disappointed, of course, because we wanted to win," said BML skipper Punkin Miller of Banko's. "But the real winner tonight was amateur baseball. This was a great baseball game, and the purists here had to love it."

Ironically enough, the two key offensive blows were struck by guys -- Limeport Bull Glenn Bubser and Northern Yankee Jason Strunk -- whose errors on defense a half-inning earlier had allowed the BML to score its first run.

The TCL broke the scoring drought with a single tally in the third. Gabelsville's Jared Nace pumped a one-out double to right and scored on consecutive singles by Lehigh Township's Omar Torres (2- for-3) and ICC's Nick Remaly.

The BML knotted the game at 1 with an unearned run in the fifth. Leading off, Banko's Matt Merkle reached second on an infield hit and Strunk's throwing error. Lower Nazareth's Chuck Draper singled him in after first getting life when Bubser dropped his foul popup.

Tri-County -- especially Bubser and Strunk -- responded immediately to go ahead 3-1. Tri-City's Matt Marcks smashed a triple off the wall in right-center to lead off the sixth and Bubser singled him in. Bubser went to third on a wild pitch and an infield out and scored on Strunk's sacrifice fly. Strunk reached when Rob Gontkosky dropped the ball, but he was erased on a double-play ball.

"I was so embarrassed when I dropped that popup," Bubser said. "That made getting the hit feel 10 times better. With a guy on third and nobody out, if I'd have messed up again, I'd have wanted to crawl in a hole."

Strunk felt relief, too.

"I really wanted to redeem myself," he said. "And I was facing Mike Palos, who I play with on Banko's. I had no idea what he'd throw me, but he told me it was a 3-1 changeup. It looked like a fastball and my eyes lit up. I just wanted to put it in play."

Most of the happy campers on this night were pitchers, though.

Who'da thunk it?



ted.meixell@mcall.com

  

From The Morning Call -- July 8, 2000

Copyright 2000, The Morning Call