Bushy Run executes all phases in winning District 31 American Legion title
Devising a game plan and executing it can be two vastly different things in American Legion baseball. But not for Bushy Run.
It planned to use three pitchers for three innings each in Wednesday's District 31 championship game and did so rather seamlessly on the way to raising the trophy in Harrison City.
Max Pici, Colin Pratt and Nick Lagnese all followed the script by throwing a trio of innings behind a crisp defense. First baseman Joe Pipak doubled twice, and catcher Nate Paszek drove in two runs in Bushy Run's 4-1 win over Hempfield East in the nine-inning title game at Penn-Trafford.
“Everyone did their job,” said Lagnese, who retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced. “We had a lot of confidence coming in. We knew the regions are coming up, but we still had to focus on winning the (district) championship.”
Bushy Run (20-3) and Hempfield East (18-4) advanced to the Region 7 playoffs, which began Saturday in Clearfield.
Bushy Run celebrated in the outfield with an array of photo-taking fans, a championship sweep and two trophies in hand: one for the regular-season crown and the other for the playoff title.
“This is what we play for,” Bushy Run manager Scott Peyman said. “If you can't get excited for this, you can't get excited. All of our pitchers were incredible. Pici really set the tone for us early. Our guys felt good and were loose.”
After Hempfield East came away with no runs in the first inning after loading the bases — an interference call at first killed the early charge — Bushy Run scored two runs in the bottom of the first.
Pipak's sacrifice fly to left drove in Rob Buck, and an overthrow allowed Alex Olesko, who doubled, to score for 2-0 lead.
Hempfield East also loaded the bases in the second but failed to score with a forceout at home ending the inning.
Nate Paszek's sacrifice fly scored Andrew Giesey to make it 3-0 in the third.
Hempfield East, in addition to making numerous lineup changes throughout the game, used three pitchers in starter Shane Stuchell, Branson Auckerman and Zayne Zalich.
But the switches proved hollow as only one run came home and 12 runners were left on base. John Malinak's two-out, fourth-inning single scored Drew Brannon.
“We had the bases loaded and nobody out in the first inning and got nothing,” Hempfield East coach Harry Shamberger said. “Then we boot a ball, and they get two runs. I think that kind of took the wind out of our sails a little bit.”
Hempfield East ended the fourth with an 8-to-4 double play, but Bushy Run snuffed out a scoring chance in the top of the fifth when Buck fired home to Paszek.
Pipak's unassuming double that dropped in the middle of three defenders led to the fourth run.
“That's why he is our cleanup hitter,” Peyman said of Pipak, who dashed for an uncovered second base with the confusion going on in shallow center and then scored on Paszek's bloop single to make it 4-1.
Said Pipak: “Right out of the box, you always run hard. I saw second open and just took it.
“We have great depth on this team. The older guys know how to work with the younger guys. It's very good chemistry.”
Travis Hohman went 3 for 4 for Bushy Run, and Garrett Stevenson was 3 for 5 for Hempfield East.
“Bushy Run was set up well with their pitching, and they divvied it up nicely,” Shamberger said. “They got us off our game.
“We just have to get ready for the weekend. We earned this opportunity so we'll see what happens.”
Hempfield East played without the DiAndreth twins, Nick and Isaiah, who were out of town on a college visit.
• In the Region 7 tournament over the weekend, Bushy Run went 1-1 in its first two games.
On Saturday, Olesko hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning to lead Bushy Run to an 8-5 victory against Bedford. Hohman had a double and RBI single in the win.
On Sunday, Beech Creek scored in seven of eight innings and defeated Bushy Run, 11-1.
Rob Buck, Noah Kinser and Holman had two hits each in the loss.