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Ford City finishes as Section 3-AA runner-up

| Thursday, May 8, 2008

FORD CLIFF -- Ford City's baseball team clinched second place in Section 3-AA for the second consecutive season with a 6-1 victory over West Shamokin on Wednesday.

Luke Szymanski led the Sabers (11-5, 8-4), striking out nine and driving in two. Carter Haponski hit a solo home run and scored three times for Ford City, while freshman Dylan Wolsonovich went 3 for 3 with an RBI double and two runs scored.

If Ford City had lost to West Shamokin, the Sabers still would have gotten second place. They would have tied with Valley, and the tie-breaker would have gone to Ford City.

"We wanted second place outright," Ford City coach Larry Cujas said.

Ford City's determination was evident from the first inning. After retiring West Shamokin in order, the Sabers jumped ahead with two runs. Wolsonovich and Haponski each singled, and Szymanski belted a triple to left-center field.

Szymanski allowed five hits and walked two in a complete-game effort. He struck out the side in the fourth inning.

"Luke's so tough," Cujas said. "He threw 86 pitches today, and when he's on, he's tough to hit."

Szymanski also probably had the defensive play of the game in the third inning. Shane Chesnutt and Keifer O'Neill were on third and first, respectively, for West Shamokin. O'Neill took off for second while Szymanski had the ball on the mound.

Szymanski checked Chesnutt at third, and then turned to throw out O'Neill. Chesnutt took off for home before Szymanski threw the ball. Szymanski saw Chesnutt leave and rifled the ball home in time for catcher Ian Ferguson to tag out Chesnutt.

"The quick steal, we worked on that in the gym (earlier in the spring), and Luke did it right," Cujas said.

West Shamokin's next batter, Aaron Bussard, singled to right-center field, scoring O'Neill from second base for the Wolves' only run.

West Shamokin (8-10, 4-8) has one game left in its season, a nonconference matchup with Kittanning at 6 p.m. Monday at PNC Park. The Wolves started the season with four consecutive wins, and they beat the Sabers for the first time in school history earlier in the spring.

But West Shamokin struggled in the second half of the season and failed to qualify for the playoffs. The Wolves six runners stranded yesterday. They left two runners on board in the second and fifth innings.

"The timely hits have been a big issue for us during the second half of the season," said West Shamokin coach Dave Powers, who plans on resigning at the end of the campaign. "We've had the guys up who normally hit, but it's been one of those things where we haven't gotten that clutch hit in the second half of the season."

West Shamokin loses four seniors: Bussard, O'Neill, Jake Ondich and Jeremy Kilgore.

"They will be missed," Powers said.

O'Neill got the loss yesterday, and Powers said the senior gave the team "more than I expected out of him on the mound this season."

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