Bushy Run Legion perseveres in opening-round series
Scott Peyman preached calmness to his Bushy Run Legion players after a 5-3 setback against Kiski Valley in the first game of the District 31 playoffs.
Despite the loss, the league’s best-of-three format afforded the team a chance to advance, and Bushy Run took full advantage with a pair of lopsided victories over Kiski Valley the following two nights.
“I told you,” Peyman said with a smile after Bushy Run’s 11-2 victory in the deciding game Wednesday at Penn-Trafford High School, one day after a 9-2 road win at Freeport Community Park.
Bushy Run’s consistent play down the stretch, including an eight-game winning streak to close the regular season, gave Peyman his confidence even after the first-day loss. But the team’s youth – only four players remain from last summer’s district championship team – necessitated the keep-calm message after that game.
“I just wanted to remind them that this is why we play three-game series,” Peyman said. “Baseball, you can lose any game to any team at any time, but in a series like this usually the best team wins.
“You have to deliver that message without panic, too, so they understand everything’s OK. It’s not the end of the world.”
Bushy Run (17-6), the No. 3 seed, showed some of its youth during the opening-round series, even in its victories. In the third game, Kiski Valley loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the first inning and scored a run on shortstop Jon Peduzzi’s errant throw to the plate.
But with the bases loaded and still no outs, pitcher Mario Disso got a ground ball back to the mound and threw home to start a 1-2-3 double play, then struck out the next Kiski Valley batter for the third out. Bushy Run threw out two more runners at the plate, including the potential go-ahead runs in the second and third innings.
“Mario, he pitched great,” Peduzzi said. “He pitched us out of a jam, bases loaded. He did a great job.”
Although Bushy Run didn’t play perfect baseball in the series — the team committed nine errors in the three games — it excelled at taking advantage of Kiski Valley’s miscues. The sixth-seeded Vikings committed 16 errors over the final two games, and Bushy Run scored all its runs in those innings.
Disso, Luke Fabac and Peduzzi stood out as the top offensive performers against Kiski Valley. Fabac had two RBIs in the opening loss, three hits in the middle game and stole home in the first inning of Game 3, one of six steals Bushy Run had in the game. Disso had two RBIs apiece in Games 2 and 3; his leadoff triple began a seven-run fifth inning in the third game that all but put it away. Peduzzi drove in four runs in that game.
Peyman also held back his top two pitchers in Tyler Chrise and Max Pici, saving them for the potential semifinal series against No. 2 Hempfield East. In their place, Trevor Wilson, Disso and Jordan Sabol had strong efforts on the mound in the final two games of the series.
The first two games of the semifinal series against Hempfield East were scheduled for Friday and Saturday, with the third game, if necessary, to take place Sunday.
If Bushy Run won the series, they would earn an automatic spot in the Region 7 Tournament later this month at Hempfield High School. A loss would force a third-place consolation game against the loser of the Latrobe-Unity semifinal series; the winner of the consolation game would get District 31’s third and final regional qualification spot.
Hempfield East and Bushy Run played a pair of tight games during the regular season, with Hempfield East winning both by 2-1 scores.
“We’ve just got to put the ball in play and make the right plays,” Peduzzi said. “That’s about it: no errors, no mistakes.”
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.