After pulling off a big win Wednesday to knock off an undefeated Johnsonburg squad and advance to the D9 Class A baseball final, the Elk County Catholic Crusaders came out flat on Thursday evening at Berwind Park. The ECC squad got behind early, struggled with their offense, and were shut out 7-0 by a very good Coudersport team, which entered the tournament as the sixth seed.
"Yesterday (Wednesday) was a big win for these kids emotionally. We turned around and I thought we were ready to play when we came to the park tonight, but we were flat," said ECC coach Tom Zampogna. "We booted the ball around and we didn't get the hits. We just came out flat."
"Coudersport played a very fundamentally sound game," Zampogna added. "They pitched well and they had no walks. We gave up some walks, we gave up some errors, and I think that was the difference in the game."
Jack Herzing, who worked the final inning on Wednesday against the Rams, started on the mound for the Crusaders and worked five innings, giving up three hits, walking three, and striking out five. Ben Cortina took over on the mound for the final two innings, giving up three hits, walking one, and striking out two.
Ethan Hite started on the mound for the Falcons, working six innings and giving up two hits while striking out eight. Tim McCusker worked the final inning in relief, striking out one.
"[Hite had] them (ECC) off-balance. He pitched a very good game. His breaking ball was not just thrown as a change of pace, it was thrown for strikes," Zampogna said.
Elk's two hits came on a double by Jack Herzing and a single by Pat Brennen.
Coudersport was led on offense by Tim McCusker and Philip Andrus, who each recorded a pair of singles. Ethan Hite had an RBI triple, while Garrett Russell singled.
The Falcons put their first run on the board in the first inning. Lead-off batter Andrew Rigas walked, advanced to second on a passed ball, and made it to third on a fielder's choice by Caden Whitman. A fielder's choice by McCuster scored Rigas, giving the Falcons a 1-0 lead. The Crusaders went down in order in the bottom half of the inning.
Herzing struck out the side in the top of the second and helped try to get ECC's offense going in the home half of the inning. With one out, he doubled to left center field, and Joe McLaughlin gave the Crusaders another base runner as he reached on a dropped third strike. Neither runner was able to advance, though, as Ben Cortina hit into a double play that also got Herzing out at third, ending the inning with McLaughlin left on base.
The Falcons again went down in order in the top of the third and the Crusaders left another runner on base in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, Pat Brennen singled but was unable to advance as Brock McCullough flied out to center field.
Both teams went down in order in the fourth inning.
Aside from the lead-off walk to start the game, Herzing pitched a consistent game and his defense backed him up until the fifth inning.
"He (Herzing) did settle down until the fifth inning, and then we had an error and bad things just started to happen," Zampogna said.
Coudersport lead-off batter John Michael Rigas reached base on a walk and advanced to second on a single by Garrett Russell. A fielder's choice by Ryan Counts brought about the first out for the Falcons, but also allowed both runners to pick up another base. Both scored on an error, as the Crusaders had trouble fielding a passed ball. Herzing moved up to cover home plate as catcher Vincent Jacob went to retrieve the ball, but Jacob's throw was off and both runners were able to make it home. Andrus kept the momentum going for Coudersport as he singled and picked up another base on an error. Jeffrey McManus brought about the second out of the inning as he flied out to center, allowing Andrus to advance to third. Andrew Rigas reached base on an error, scoring Andrus, and Whitman grounded out to the third baseman to send the game into the bottom half of the inning with the Falcons now up 4-0. The Crusaders again went down in order as McLaughlin struck out looking, Cortina grounded out to the second baseman, and Jacob went down swinging.
The Falcons added two more runs in the top of the sixth. McCusker started things off with a single and advanced to second as Hite walked. At that point Zampogna pulled Herzing in favor of Ben Cortina. With Patrick Bollhurst taking over on first as a courtesy runner for Hite, Cortina threw four straight balls to load the bases by walking John Michael Rigas. Russell flied out to center for the first out of the inning, scoring McCusker on the play. Counts struck out swinging for the Falcons' second out. Andrus singled, reloading the bases, and McManus reached on an error, scoring Bollhurst to put Coudersport up 6-0. Andrew Rigas grounded out to the second baseman to keep the Falcons from pushing through any more runs. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, McCullough reached base on an error but was left on base as Dan Singer grounded out to the shortstop.
With one out in the top of the seventh, McCusker singled and was replaced by courtesy runner Xavier Furman. Furman scored on a triple by Hite, but Hite was left stranded on third as the next two batters went down in order, bringing the Crusaders up to bat with Coudersport leading 7-0. With McCusker taking over on the mound in the bottom of the inning, Ivan Wortman flied out to center, Wes Brennen went down swinging, and Bryan Haberberger flied out to center field to end the game and hand the Falcons the 7-0 shutout victory for the D9 Class A championship.
Elk Catholic is now 16-7 on the season and will take on District 10 champion West Middlesex on Monday at a site and time to be announced. Coudersport will advance to play Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the third-place team from District 7.
Bryan Brooks 0-0-0, Andrew Rigas 3-1-0, Caden Whitman 4-0-0, Tim McCusker 4-1-2, Ethan Hite 3-1-0, Xavier Furman 0-1-0, Patrick Bollhurst 0-1-0, John Michael Rigas 2-1-0, Garrett Russell 4-1-1, Ryan Counts 3-0-0, Philip Andrus 3-1-2, Jeffrey McManus 3-0-0. Totals 29-7-6.
Elk Catholic 0
Patrick Brennen 3-0-1, Brock McCullough 3-0-0, Dan Singer 3-0-0, Ivan Wortman 3-0-0, Jack Herzing 2-0-1, Wes Brennen 1-0-0, Joe McLaughlin 2-0-0, Bryan Haberberger 1-0-0, Ben Cortina 2-0-0, Vincent Jacob 2-0-0, Brandon Schlimm 0-0-0, Shea Meyer 2-0-0. Totals 24-0-2.
Score by innings R
Coudersport 100 032 1 7
ECCHS 000 000 0 0