Crawford County representing.
The area’s orange all-stars doled out some payback and earned their way to the Pennsylvania Senior League championship tournament by defeating DuBois in a two-game Section 1 title series on Saturday, first 3-1 and then 5-3 in the if-necessary finale.
“We earned it,” said Crawford County catcher Tyler Walters. “We wanted to win so bad. And we had the team to do it. We fought the whole way. There was no giving up.
“We put this team together to win. That’s what we were doing.”
The two victories were sweet revenge for Crawford County, which lost to DuBois 9-7 in the opening round of the Section 1 tournament on Wednesday.
“Like I told (DuBois) in the first game,” said Crawford County head coach Scott Walters, “‘We’ll be back. One way or another, we’ll be back. Whether we win or lose, you’re going to have to play us for the championship.’
“And the guys came to play. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the dugout. ... I’m proud of them. I’m proud of every one of them.”
Next up for Crawford County is the state tournament, which begins Wednesday in Emporium. The locals open up play at 7 p.m. against the Section 2 champion
“I couldn’t ask for a better team,” said Crawford’s Luke Basko. “I’ve played with them since I was 8 years old. They’re like brothers. This team is a brotherhood. We have a couple new kids, but they fit right in there — Matt Thompson, Jesse Staudt, Brian Faulkner. Emporium is going to be a lot of fun.”
Basko was part of a Crawford County pitching staff that had a quality day on the mound Saturday. Scott Sada got the start in the first game, allowed just one run on six hits through four innings. Basko earned a hold, pitching a scoreless inning and two-thirds. And Drew Durasa grabbed the save, keeping DuBois off the scoreboard over the final inning and a third.
Basko then turned around and got the start in game two. He ended up lasting six more innings, yielding just four base hits and no earned runs.
“Luke Basko pitched in the first game, had 65 pitches to work with in the second game, and did a great job getting later into the game, farther than I thought,” Scott Walters said.
Then Mitchell Wood capped the day off with a 1-2-3 save performance in the seventh inning to seal the title for the locals.
“We had solid pitching (Saturday) and I think that’s what won it for us,” said Sada. “I threw all right. But I started to have some arm pain there in the fourth inning (of the first game), so I had to come out, unfortunately. But (Basko and Durasa) did a real nice job coming in after me. Then Luke did real good in the second game.”
Crawford County’s offense struck first in the opener. Sada, Cole Baker and Durasa hit back-to-back-to-back singles to lead off the second inning. Durasa’s bouncer up the middle scored both Sada and Baker.
The orange boys made it 3-0 in the third inning when Tyler Walters hit his second double of the game to the left-center gap and Sada scored him with a line drive single to the same hole.
DuBois answered with a run in the fourth inning. Dom Goldbach led the frame off with a double to the fence in left field. Then Vincon Palmiere drove Goldbach in with a single.
That was all DuBois would get in that first game. The team had runners in scoring position in each of their next three at-bats. But a combination of Crawford County’s defense and pitching kept DuBois from making it to home.
However, the defense had a big letdown to start game No. 2. Crawford County were charged with three errors in the first inning, which allowed DuBois to take an early 3-0 lead.
“Yeah, we got down,” Scott Walters said. “It was early in the game. So I told them, ‘Listen, relax. There’s a lot of game left. We’re hitting the ball well. We’ll be all right.’”
The only trouble was, Crawford County had struggled with waiting out DuBois’ slow-throwing starter Ryan Anderson.
“That seems to be an issue sometimes,” said coach Walters. “We jump on the fast pitchers. And when the slow ones come in, you can’t stay back.”
Crawford County did strike for a run in the first inning after Joel Mowris was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a ground ball and scored on a single by Wood.
But then the next two innings went by fast. Sada had a single in the second but was doubled up on the next batter. And the team went in order in the third.
Finally, the locals’ bats woke up in the fourth inning. Wood drew a walk with one out and quickly found himself after a steal and a throwing error by DuBois.
Tyler Walters brought Wood in with a single deep in the hole to shortstop Garrett Miles. Then Staudt, fighting off three or four foul balls, reached out and poked a single to right field to push Walters to third. And Sada, after another lengthy battle with Anderson, plated Walters with a sacrifice fly to left, tying the game at 3-3.
DuBois had some golden opportunities to retake the lead after that. Jon Mohney led off the fifth inning with a two-bag gapper to right center, and advanced to third on a sac bunt. But Basko authored a strikeout for out No. 2, then got the next batter to fly out to right.
Justin Sleigh then led off the sixth with a first-pitch double. And Goldbach followed that up with a single to put runners at the corners.
Jake Felix flew out in the next at-bat. But Sleigh declined to test Kyle Wise’s arm from center field.
However, the next batter, Palmiere, hit one foul to left field. Sada hustled to get under it and made the catch, but couldn’t make the throw in time to catch Sleigh coming in from third, giving DuBois what would have been the go-ahead run.
The only problem was, Sleigh left early. When Basko got the ball back, he tossed it to Baker at third for the appeal. The home plate umpire yelled, “He left early,” and rung Sleigh up to end the inning.
“(Sleigh) ran back to the bag and (Sada) went down to catch it and the kid took off,” said coach Walters. “And it looked pretty blatant.
“Those are tough calls. It’s a tough call to make in a 3-3 game. And I tell you what, if that was the right call, which I think it was, that was great. That was a turning point.”
It was certainly a big moment for Basko.
“I was really excited when he made that call,” said Basko. “That knocked the wind right out of their sails.”
Basko threw his 95th pitch on that final play.
“I had five pitches remaining in that last inning,” said Basko. “And I got three outs from those five pitches. So, it worked out well.”
The DuBois bench argued the call and one of the team’s coaches was tossed. Crawford County, on the other hand, was energized.
“That was the momentum shifter right there,” said Tyler Walters. “We knew coming up we had the top of the order up and we were going to get hits and score runs somehow.”
Indeed, with one out in the sixth, Walters hit his third double of the afternoon to the gap in left-center. Then Staudt launched one just over the glove of DuBois left fielder Ayden Hanes for another double, scoring Walters and giving Crawford County the lead. And DuBois threw the ball around, allowing Staudt to reach third.
Then Sada laid down an outstanding bunt up the first base line, bringing Staudt in for an insurance run.
Wood then took the mound in the seventh, and went 1-2-3, striking out the final batter to end the game.
“Mitchell struggled the first time (we played DuBois),” coach Walters said. “He was pressing the issue a little bit. I think he was trying to take care of it himself. But he’s got a great defense here. And that’s what I told him here. ‘I have confidence in you. Have confidence in yourself. Work the strike zone and let the defense make plays.’
“And ironically he struck the last guy out.”
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