The top-seeded teams in the District 31 American Legion playoffs opened their semifinal best-of-three series Friday with impressive victories.
Andrew Rosenberg tossed a four-hit shutout, and Jack McBride went 3 for 3 as No. 1 seed Hempfield East, the regular-season champion, blanked No. 4 Latrobe, 6-0, at Pitt-Greensburg.
No. 2 seed Bushy Run got a dazzling pitching performance from Tyler Horvat and toppled No. 3 Unity, 11-0, at Whitney in six innings. The game was moved to Unity because the Penn-Trafford field was unplayable after heavy rains Thursday.
Both teams look to close out the series Saturday and punch their ticket to the District 31 championship game Tuesday — and, more importantly, gain an automatic berth in the Region 7 tournament that begins July 18 at Latrobe.
Hempfield East took advantage of a couple walks and aggressive base-running in the first two innings to build a 4-0 lead.
Matt Wicker had a two-out RBI single to score Rosenberg in the first inning for a 1-0 lead. In the second inning, Noah Sweeney had an RBI double, Dajauhn Hertzog an RBI on a safety squeeze and Rosenberg an RBI single for a 4-0 lead.
“It’s important to set the tone early,” Hempfield East coach Scott Smith said. “We got a clutch hit from Matt in the first inning and more big hits in the second. If we get a chance, we’re going to move people around in the base paths.”
Latrobe coach Jason Bush said the walks and aggressive base running put his team in an early hole. He also tipped his cap to the pitching performance of Rosenberg, who walked one and struck out 10.
“Andrew pitched a great game for them,” Bush said. “We didn’t help ourselves with walks in the first two innings and ended up giving them four runs. I was pleased with the performance Cam (Dominick) gave us in relief. He saved our bullpen for the rest of the series.”
Dominick allowed four hits and two runs: an RBI groundout by Hertzog and an RBI double by Wicker.
“This was definitely one of my best pitching performances of the season,” Rosenberg said. “I credit my defense for making the plays behind me and my catchers for blocking the ball on the strikeouts. It was a good win to build our momentum.”
Wicker and Hertzog each had two RBIs, and Wicker and Rosenberg each had two hits.
Latrobe got a double from Vinnie Amatucci and two singles from Clay Petrosky.
The Jethawks stranded a lead-off double in the fifth inning and had runners on second and third twice but failed to get a key hit.
Game 2 is 1:30 p.m. at Latrobe Legion-Keener Field.
Luke Kuzinsky drove in three runs, and Owen Sabol drove in two runs with two doubles in Bushy Run’s victory.
Horvat allowed only two hits and struck out five. Bushy Run pitchers have not allowed a run in the playoffs.
“It’s good to jump in the lead, especially with our defense,” Bushy Run coach Scott Peyman said. “Tyler was dominant.”
Bushy Run pounded out 16 hits. Six players — Sabol, Kuzinsky, Mario Disso, Cade Patterson, Luke Fabac and Connor Bannias — each had two hits.
Game 2 is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Penn-Trafford.