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Ligonier Valley baseball takes next step with quarterfinal victory

| Friday, May 18, 2012, 9:20 p.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review Ligonier Valley's Ian Taggart rounds third base scoring a run during a District 6 AA quarterfinal matchup against Penn Cambria at Ligonier Valley on Friday, May 18, 2012.

There wasn't much time for the Ligonier Valley baseball team to celebrate its 6-3 victory over visiting Penn Cambria on Friday in the District 6-AA playoffs.

Top-seeded Philipsburg-Osceola awaits the Rams on Monday in the semifinals.

“We got out of the first round last year, and the season ended in the quarterfinals,” second-year Ligonier Valley coach John Jones said. “This year, with a first-round bye, we made it a step farther. We made it to semis, and that's an accomplishment for this team.”

Jones understandably doesn't want it to end here.

“A lot of these guys are seniors, and they played their last game at home today,” he said. “They'll be missed.”

Not so fast, though. They're still playing.

“We think we have a team that can contend,” Jones said. “We've got an aggressive bunch.”

Especially at the plate, where the Rams pounded out nine hits and struck out just once. Matt Ryan drove in a pair of runs, including one during a five-run uprising in the third inning, and reliever Billy Elliott pitched out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth to lead Ligonier Valley (16-5), which won its fourth in a row.

The fourth-seeded Rams sent 10 men to the plate in the third, scoring five runs on six hits against Joel Myers, to take a 5-0 lead, before fifth-seeded Penn Cambria (11-7) scored three in the fifth against Joey Pushnigg, who struggled with his control.

The senior right-hander worked the first five innings, surviving four hit batters and three walks while striking out four before giving way to the lefty Elliott. Pushnigg did not allow a hit until the fourth.

“He struggled with his control the whole game,” Jones said. “He just wasn't hitting his spots. But we wanted to pitch them inside because we knew they could be aggressive and crowd the plate. That kind of got us in a little trouble with the hit batters.”

Elliott loaded the bases in the sixth but got out of it before settling down in the seventh for a quiet inning.

During Ligonier Valley's five-run third, five players drove in a run apiece, including doubles by Jake Nemeth and brothers Ryan and Adam Torrence. Run-scoring singles by Anthony Tutino and Ryan accounted for the other runs during the rally.

Ryan's RBI single in the sixth gave Ligonier Valley a 6-3 lead.

Jordan Fuller's two-run double sparked Penn Cambria's three-run fifth.

“We competed. Our pitcher competed,” Penn Cambria coach James Poldiak said. “But they found holes at the right times, and we didn't.”

Penn Cambria finished 11-7 after combining for just five victories in the previous two seasons.

“Hopefully, things are turned around,” Poldiak said.

Ligonier Valley plays Monday at Philipsburg-Osceola, which yesterday beat Blairsville, 11-1.

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dmackall@tribweb.com or 412-380-5617.

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