Homer City pounds Young Township, 10-0
In this year's highly competitive senior legion season, Homer City Legion showed Tuesday night that it might be ready to move away from the pack.
Scott Harsh pitched five innings of three-hit ball and a short-handed Young Township team committed four errors that led to six unearned runs in a 10-0 Homer City victory that was called in the bottom of the fifth due to the 10-run mercy rule.
Going into Tuesday night, there was just a three-game difference between first and last place in the five-team league, an unusually tight margin for this late in the season. Earlier in the week, Homer City moved into a first-place tie with Indiana Legion and Tuesday's victory was the third straight for the team and improved its record to 7-3.
"We're just trying to stay hot," Homer City manager Brad Bellas said. "Last year we were sort of an up and down team. There's a little more maturity I think on the team this year. We're getting some good pitching right now, so it's starting to come together."
Everything came together Tuesday night for Harsh, who went 2-for-3 at the plate, drove in the two runs that clinched the 10-run margin, and most importantly, allowed just the three hits and no runs.
"I was just throwing strikes," Harsh said.
The only time Harsh had any trouble doing that was in the first inning when he walked the first two batters to lead off the game. The next batter, Ryan Coulter, then lined out to center fielder Ryan Bernat, who threw to second base to complete a double play after Cory Reilly failed to retreat in time. After that, Harsh had very few problems, finishing with three walks and six strikeouts.
That was a relief to Bellas, who actually had Louis Caruso warming up in the first inning while Harsh struggled with his control.
"It just didn't look like he was as comfortable as he normally is out there," Bellas said. "Fortunately we got that double play on the line drive, and I think that got some of the butterflies out."
After Homer City took a 2-0 lead in the first inning against pitcher Alex Heller, everything unraveled for Young Township in the third when Homer City scored six unearned runs caused by three errors, all throwing miscues on ground balls.
Young Township's defensive problems were partially caused by the team's lack of available bodies -- the team was missing about a third of the roster and only had 10 players for the game.
Manager Barry Thomas even had to use a catcher, Ben Weimer, to play shortstop.
"Ben doesn't play short, but I had to move him over," Thomas said. "I told him after the game that's taking advantage of him because he's a good athlete. You try to use him, but when you're a catcher, that doesn't work."
Still, Thomas didn't want to use the small roster as an excuse and acknowledged his team should have played better.
"We should've been at least in the ball game," Thomas said. "(Heller) threw well enough to be in the ball game, but we didn't make any plays."
The closest Young Township came to a big play came in the fourth inning with the team trailing 8-0. Weimer led off the inning and belted a ball to deep center field that reached the wall. As Weimer rounded second base for a triple, Bernat threw to second baseman Aaron Stultz, who then fired a perfect relay to third baseman Eric Cusimano who tagged Weimer out.
"Just a great relay throw from Aaron," Bellas said. "It was a pretty spectacular defensive play and sort of squashed anything they would've had going there after that play."
Catcher Garrett Sisak went 2-for-2 with a walk, a triple and three RBIs for Homer City. Left fielder Ryan Mlakar had a two-run single in the third while Stultz and Bernat had an RBI apiece.
Heller took the loss for Young Township, as he went three innings and allowed eight runs, although only two were earned. He gave up seven hits, walked one and struck out one.
The loss dropped Young Township to 6-8 before a busy weekend with four games in three days. Thomas knows the three-time defending league champions must start to win if they wish to have a chance at a fourth straight title. The top four teams advance to the league playoffs.
"I told (the players) this is the big weekend," Thomas said. "This will make the difference whether we can get in and make a shot at it or we sit at home."
Homer City will also be busy this weekend with a 1 p.m. doubleheader at Marion Center Saturday and a 4 p.m. doubleheader home against Creps United Sunday.
Homer City cruises past Creps United
Homer City Legion defeated Creps United 10-0 last Thursday night.
Scott Harsh picked up the win for Homer City, pitching a four-hitter while striking out six and walking just one.
Ryan Bernat led off the game with a home run to right center field, and Tim Kinter added a three-run shot in the second inning that curled just inside the foul pole in left. Kinter added a single and a double, and finished with 5 RBIs.
Eric Cusimano and Harsh also collected two hits in the game.
John Creps doubled for Creps United.