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Belle Vernon Area holds off Ringgold

| Friday, April 25, 2014, 12:16 a.m.
Rich Downer | For The Valley Independent
Belle Vernon Area's Dylan Pietrantoni attempts a bunt in front of Ringgold catcher Connor Maciejewski on Thursday, April 24, 2014.

Belle Vernon Area jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead on Ringgold Thursday and withstood a fourth-inning rally to hold on to an important 5-4 Section 4 AAA road win.

BVA (9-4, 5-4) scored two runs in the first, and another in each the second, third and fourth innings — leaving the bases loaded in both the third and fourth — and seemed to be cruising before the Rams (3-8, 0-8) made it a game in the bottom of the inning.

“We seem to take the foot off the pedal when we need to hold down the gas,” BVA coach Daryl Hixenbaugh said. “We start out great but sometimes when we face adversity we start to have defensive at-bats, and that's when you want to have offensive at-bats. But it's OK. We got the job done today and are still in good shape for the playoffs.”

BVA starting pitcher Cody Menges cruised through the first three innings before hitting trouble in the fourth. Three straight BVA errors loaded the bases with no outs before Connor Maciejiewski drove in Weston Homa with an infield single to short. It was the Rams' only hit of the game.

After Menges recorded a force out at the plate on an attempted squeeze bunt and a strikeout, he walked the next three batters, plating three runs.

“We started to play a lot better about halfway through the game,” Ringgold coach Mike Sikorski said. “Early, it seemed like we were in a bit of a funk. We weren't having quality at bats and we were making mistakes in the field. Around the fourth inning something clicked and we started playing better.

“We still have to hit the ball better. We had the one inning where we scored four runs, but we still didn't have any timely hits. That's what's hurting us right now, our inability to get those timely hits in big situations.”

Dylan Stark entered the game in relief and got the Leps out of the jam, throwing 3 13 innings of hitless relief, striking out one and walking one.

“Stark, he just flat out competed today,” Hixenbaugh said. “That's the first time all year he has truly competed and we needed it. He came in with our team in a bad situation and he picked us up. Sometimes you just need to take the tiger by the tail and make something happen.

“The sign of a champion is not what you do when things are smooth sailing; it's how you react when the chips are down and how you battle at that point. The kids faced some adversity in the fourth inning and they stepped up. Things started to snowball downhill, but we didn't let that beat us.”

BVA didn't waste any time getting to Ringgold starter Nick Maciejewski. Evan Hannon led off the game with a double and advanced to third on Niko Tasser's bunt single. Both runners scored on separate passed balls.

Dylan Pietrantoni led off the second with a single to left and scored on Hannon's sacrifice fly.

In the third, Parker Lynn singled with one out and scored on Pietrantoni's sacrifice fly before Maciejewski was able to get Timmy Labuda to fly out with the bases loaded.

In the fourth, Hannon reached on an error and scored on Lynn's groundout as the Leps left the bases loaded again. After that, Maciejewski began to cruise, retiring eight straight batters.

“Nick has been really solid all year and we have really tried to ride him out,” Sikorski said. “His curve ball was pretty effective and he really beat the strike zone up today. He fell apart a couple times and threw some pitches way out of the zone that led to a couple of runs in the first, but other than that he pitched a great game.

“It's a shame that we haven't been able to get him the run support because he certainly has deserved to win a few more games,” Sikorski said. “But it's just been one of those years. This is a great group of kids, but they are a young team and this year has been a learning experience.”

Pietrantoni led the Leps with two hits, while seven others had one. Menges worked 3 23 innings, giving up one hit, four walks and four runs, while striking out four for the win. Stark earned the save.

Nick Maciejewski threw a complete game, scattering eight hits, walking four, striking out four and giving up five runs in the loss.

Donnie Tasser is a freelance writer.

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