Connellsville evens series
Facing elimination from the playoffs, the Connellsville American Legion baseball team brought out the sticks Friday, racking up 19 hits in a 14-7 win over visiting Charleroi.
With the win, Connellsville and Charleroi are now tied at a game apiece in the best-of-3 semifinal series. The deciding game is at 5:30 p.m. today at Charleroi.
"As soon as we got past their starting pitcher, we rattled their back-ups," Connellsville's David Sumner said.
Sumner led Connellsville's hit parade with two singles and two doubles. Andrew Spargur, Kasey Eutsey and Andy Schleihauf each had three hits.
"We got behind early, and Connellsville was hitting the ball all day," Charleroi coach Luke Mollis said. "It wasn't our day."
Through the first six innings, the teams were in a dogfight. Connellsville (18-6) took advantage of some poor defense by Charleroi (21-4) to score four runs in the first inning. In the second, Connellsville claimed a 5-1 lead, as Eutsey doubled and scored on a single by Josh Coffman.
But in the fourth, Charleroi started to rally. After Chris Chacko homered, Charleroi used two Connellsville errors to score two more runs in the inning, making it 5-4.
The visitors then appeared to take control with three more runs in the sixth against Connellsville starter Robert Halfhill. Chacko and Mario Fragello each doubled and scored before reliever Bobby Fulton was greeted with an RBI single from Neil Pascarella to give Charleroi a 7-5 lead.
But after that, Fulton took over.
The right-hander pitched out of the sixth and worked three scoreless innings the rest of the way. He surrendered just two hits in his three-plus innings.
"Bobby Fulton just got it done for us," Connellsville coach John Przybylinski said. "He was great, and we needed that. He was big for us."
Fulton became the pitcher of record in the sixth after Schleihauf drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and Coffman connected for an RBI single to tie it at 7-7. Charleroi starter Matt Dishong was lifted in the sixth, and reliever Zack Neil kept the game tied.
But in the seventh, Connellsville broke it open, scoring seven runs to insure that the teams would meet one more time this season.
In the seventh, Josh Ridenour doubled and scored before Spargur, Eutsey, Schleihauf, Colton Wilhelm, Tyler Onusko and Sumner all singled and scored. Andrew Kaper then capped the inning with a two-run double.
"They took it upon themselves to get it done," Przybylinski said of his team. "Whatever they said to each other, it worked."
Connellsville's big inning was deflating for Charleroi, particularly after rallying to take the lead in the middle innings.
"We made a pretty good run to get back in the game, but that one bad inning is what broke our backs," Mollis said. "It's always tough coming up here, no matter how well you play."
Both coaches expect a battle today that should come down to the wire.
"It's do-or-die," Mollis said. "It will be a hard-played game. You almost have to play perfect at this point."
Przybylinski believes his team will be ready to go in the series finale.
"We're looking good, and we have a lot of confidence," Przybylinski said.
The winner of today's game will play Uniontown in the championship series beginning Sunday at Uniontown.