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Ford City edges Freeport

| Saturday, April 18, 2009

FORD CLIFF -- Pitchers Luke Prazenica of Ford City and Justin Bollinger of Freeport staged one of the better pitching duels this season Friday afternoon.

Prazenica finally took matters into his own hands, driving in the game's only run, as the Sabers edged the Yellowjackets, 1-0, in a Section 3-AA encounter that took just 90 minutes to complete.

Brandon Carson slammed a one-out single to right and was bunted to second by Rory Lockhart. Prazenica then hit a hard grounder past third to bring Carson around to score.

The victory put Ford City (7-1, 4-1) one-half game ahead of Freeport (6-2, 3-1) in the section standings. The Sabers are tied with Valley (4-4, 4-1) for the top spot. The top three teams from each section qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.

The Sabers bounced back from their only loss of the season to Valley Thursday.

"After what happened to us Thursday when we were up 2-1 in the seventh and lost, 4-2, I had my doubts one run would hold up," said Ford City coach Larry Cujas.

Prazenica yielded just three hits and only two Yellowjackets runners made it to third - both on errors. Bollinger also gave up just three hits and struck out six while Prazenica fanned nine.

"Freeport's a really good team, they've been playing flawlessly," Prazenica said. "Justin pitched a heckuva game, we were lucky to come out with a win today."

Freeport had several threats, but couldn't get a runner home.

Harrison Wood reached base on an error, stole second and went to third on a groundout. But Prazenica struck out Andrew Wagner to end the inning.

Later, Wagner singled to open the fifth, but third-string Ford City catcher Brendan Ignatz threw out Wagner trying to steal. That was critical because Bollinger later walked, stole second and went to third on an error. Prazenica then struck out Ricky Francart to squelch that threat.

With two on and one out in the sixth, Ford City turned a short-to second-to first double play to end the inning.

Wagner doubled with one out in the seventh and pinch hitter Derek Knapp was hit by a pitch. But a strikeout and a grounder to first sealed the victory.

"We had guys on most of the game, we just couldn't get them in," said Freeport coach Chris Graczyk. "We didn't have clutch hitting and, unfortunately, that burned us."

Bollinger retired the last seven batters he faced to keep Freeport close. Ford City never had more than one baserunner at any time.

"He pitched really well, he kept the ball down, but in the same sense, Prazenica pitched well, too," Graczyk said.

"You have to have some toughness to lose a heart-breaker, then come out here and win, 1-0," Cujas said.

Ford City plays host to West Shamokin on Monday at 3:45 p.m., while Freeport visits Deer Lakes.

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