Lack of runs dooms Kiski Valley in Legion loss
Kiski Valley did it all — except score runs.
The Vikings' Caleb Zablocki pitched a six-hitter, and the team backed him with an eight-hit output, but Kiski Valley was able to push only one runner across the plate in a 2-1 loss at West Hempfield in a District 31 American Legion game.
West Hempfield (3-2) got a strong pitching performance from Nathan Mori, who finished with 15 strikeouts and handed Kiski Valley (2-6) its fifth consecutive loss.
“We've wasted a lot of good pitching performances because we don't hit consistently enough to win,” Kiski Valley coach Dennis Montgomery said. “We brought Caleb in today on short notice because our other pitcher was stuck in traffic, and he threw a 102-pitch gem.”
It took Kiski Valley's hitters a while to figure out Mori, who had 11 of his 15 strikeouts in the first four innings. But trailing, 2-0, the Vikings scored in the sixth.
Matt Wolczko led off the inning with his second double of the game, and a single by Matt Swartz gave the Vikings runners on the corners with no outs. Josh Beale brought home Wolczko with a one-out single, but a groundout and a foul out ended the inning with two runners stranded in scoring position.
“We just keep chugging along, and we're trying to make something happen at the plate,” Swartz said. “We've been hitting the ball well sometimes, but we just aren't getting the timely hits. That's a big thing that needs to change.”
Luke Mariotti had a two-out single in the seventh, but he would be the eighth and final runner stranded by Kiski Valley. Wolczko flied out to shallow right field to end the game.
Kiski Valley did a good job in the field by finishing with only one error, but West Hempfield was able to produce its runs with small ball.
Mori singled and stole second before scoring on an RBI single by Tyler Tubbs in the first inning. In the second, back-to-back bunts by Joey DiBridge and Jeff Livengood scored Grant Fox from second for the eventual game-winning run.
Zablocki was a big reason West Hempfield needed to play that style. He drew half of the home team's outs on ground balls with only one error made in the field behind him.
“Normally, we'll do something stupid or make one bad play on defense because we don't hit enough and put too much pressure on our defense,” Montgomery said. “Our defense played really well today, and I thought it was a real good baseball game. We just weren't hitting.”
Even with the losing streak, which includes back-to-back one-run losses after the team dropped a 4-3 decision to Derry over the weekend, Kiski Valley is still in the thick of the District 31 playoff race.
Eight of the league's 12 teams will make the postseason, and with winless Greensburg behind the Vikings in the Northern Division, Kiski Valley is still in position to make the playoffs if it can start producing runs in key situations.
“The competition in this league is great, and some of our kids are still making the adjustment from the high school season when they may not have played all the time,” Swartz said. “They're getting a chance to step up in Legion, and the more reps they get, the better they'll be. We're hitting a bit better now, and I think we're going to be fine.”
“The thing about this team, they don't rah-rah a lot. Sometimes it sounds like we're playing in a library,” Montgomery said. “But they keep showing up with a lunch-pail mentality, and I think these guys are going to keep coming back strong, even if we do drop a couple more.”