SLIPPERY ROCK – It was cloudy and cool Monday afternoon at Jack Critchfield Park at Slippery Rock University for the PIAA Class A baseball championship opening-round game between West Middlesex and Elk County Catholic, but the Crusaders' bats were hot and so was sophomore Brandon Schlimm's pitching as ECC led all the way for a 6-2 victory.
"It was a big win for the kids today," said ECC coach Tom Zampogna. "Brandon pitched an extremely good game for us. They came out early with their bats. They scored early in the game. They put the pressure on West Middlesex up front. West Middlesex hit the ball very well. Both teams actually hit the ball well, but we just outscored them today."
Schlimm went the distance on the mound for the Crusaders, giving up six hits, walking three, and striking out seven.
Michael Ginther started on the mound for West Middlesex, working three innings and giving up eight hits, walking two, and striking out four. Dillon Fair took over for one and two-thirds innings, giving up three hits and striking out one. Dom Pape worked the final two and one-third innings, giving up one hit and striking out one.
ECC had 12 hits in the contest, led by Jack Herzing with a double and a pair of singles. Ivan Wortman and Ben Cortina both had a pair of singles. Pat Brennen, Brock McCullough, Dan Singer, Joe McLaughlin, Vincent Jacob, and Shea Meyer all singled.
Christian Porterfield led the Big Reds with a triple and a single. Dom Pape, Marky Colella, Dillon Fair, and Ryan Snyder all singled.
The Crusaders started off strong, taking the early lead with three runs in the top of the first inning. Brennen started things off with a bunt single. A single by McCullough advanced Brennen, and Brennen made it home on an overthrow to first on a single by Dan Singer. Ivan Wortman singled, scoring McCullough, and Herzing loaded the bases with another single. McLaughlin hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Singer and giving Elk the 3-0 lead. The next two batters struck out swinging, leaving the Crusaders with two runners stranded on base. The Big Reds managed one run in the home half of the inning. Lead-off batter Dom Pape singled and, after two outs, advanced to second as Christen Porterfield walked. A single by Marky Colella scored Pape to make the score 3-1, but West Middlesex also left a pair of runners on base as Sage Pope hit into a fielder's choice, forcing Colella at second.
Neither team made much progress on offense in the second inning.
ECC added another run in the top of the third. With one out, Wortman singled and advanced as Herzing walked. McLaughlin reached base on an error and Wortman tried to make it home on the play but was unable to beat the throw, bringing about the second out for the Crusaders. Cortina singled and picked up another base on the play as Singer scored to give ECC a 4-1 advantage. Vincent Jacob walked to load the bases, but the Crusaders were unable to capitalize as Meyer struck out looking. The Big Reds went down in order in the bottom of the inning.
Dillon Fair took over on the mound for West Middlesex in the top of the fourth and sent ECC's batters down in order. The Big Reds carried the momentum into the home half of the inning as they scored their final run of the game. Porterfield led off with a triple and, after Colella struck out, scored on a fielder's choice that saw Pope out at first. Fair ended the inning as he struck out swinging with ECC still holding a 4-2 lead.
The Crusaders' final two runs came in the top of the fifth. With one out, Herzing doubled and advanced to third as McLaughlin reached base on an error. A single by Cortina scored Herzing, and McLaughlin scored on a single by Jacob. Meyer struck out looking for the second out for ECC, and the Big Reds decided to once again change pitchers. With Dom Pape now on the mound, Brennen grounded out to the second basemen for the third out, with the Crusaders now ahead 6-2. Nate Anthony reached base on an error to start off the bottom of the inning. Ryan Snyder brought about the first out for West Middlesex as he grounded out to the second baseman. Pape walked, and then Jerrod Palmer hit into a double play, ending the threat.
The Crusaders went down in order in the top of the sixth. Schlimm fanned three batters in the home half of the inning, leaving Porterfield, who singled, stranded on base.
Both teams left one runner on in the seventh inning. Herzing singled, advanced to second on a fielder's choice by McLaughlin, and made it to third on a fielder's choice by Cortina, but was unable to score as Jacob struck out. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Snyder singled, but was unable to advance as Pape grounded out to Schlimm, ending the game and allowing the Crusaders to advance with the 6-2 win.
ECC is now 17-7 on the season and will face District 7 champion Neshannock on Thursday at a site and time to be announced. Neshannock defeated District 6 runner-up Bishop Guilfoyle 2-0 on Monday afternoon at Pullman Park in Butler.
West Middlesex 2
Dom Pape 3-1-1, Kyle Gilmore 0-0-0, Jerron Palmer 3-0-0, Trey Staunch 3-0-0, Christen Porterfield 2-1-2, Marky Colella 3-0-1, Sage Pope 3-0-0, Mike Ginther 0-0-0, Dillon Fair 3-0-1, Nate Anthony 2-0-0, Ryan Snyder 3-0-1. Totals 25-2-6.
Elk Catholic 6
Pat Brennen 4-1-1, Brock McCullough 4-1-1, Dan Singer 4-1-1, Ivan Wortman 4-0-2, Jack Herzing 3-2-3, Joe McLaughlin 4-1-0, Ben Cortina 4-0-2, Vincent Jacob 3-0-1, Brandon Schlimm 0-0-0, Shea Meyer 3-0-1, Bryan Haberberger 0-0-0. Totals 33-6-12.
Score by innings R
West Middlesex 100 100 0 2
ECCHS 301 020 0 6