Any team serious about forging a championship season must find a way to win ugly.
Sounds silly, but in baseball it’s a serious concept.
To this point in the summer, Hawley’s Senior American Legion squad really didn’t have to worry about winning ugly. The Toros simply imposed their will on the enemy, cruising to the regular season title and a #1 seed in the District 15 playoffs.
However, after suffering a heartbreaking 2-0 loss to Milford in Game One of the finals, Coach Chad Goetz’s ballclub faced the sobering reality of elimination.
Game Two would turn into something less than a work of art, but the Toros got the job done. They won ugly, 13-10, and kept their championship hopes alive.
“The kids knew our backs were against the wall,” he told The News Eagle. “We did do many things wrong today, but I guess in the end the positives outweighed the negatives. So, we live to play another day.”
Weather permitting, that day was slated to be Thursday at Wallenpaupack Area High School.
With this best-of-three series deadlocked at one win apiece, the winner would be crowned D-15 champ and advance to the regional tournament.
“It would be a shame to see it all end,” Coach Goetz said. “If we can find a way to win this last game, I think we have a good shot at doing some damage at regionals. We’ll see...”
Stay tuned for full coverage of Post 311’s final playoff game in the next edition of The News Eagle.
On the Attack
After being blanked in the series opener, Hawley wasted no time in jumping on Milford starter Zach Stauffer.
The Toros leapt out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, then tacked on four runs in the third and two in the fourth.
Chris Duff led the way offensively. A lightning-quick centerfielder, Duff banged out three hits in four at-bats. Chris led off the game with a sharp single, took second on a Kenny Ciszak sacrifice, then scampered home when James Goetz doubled.
Duff struck again in the third, lashing his second hit and eventually trotting home courtesy of a Goetz sacrifice fly to left. Chris would close out the contest with three crucial base knocks. He also scored a pair of runs and collected two RBIs.
“When Chris is making things happen in that lead-off spot, our offense really goes,” Coach Goetz said. “He’s a line drive hitter and he runs extremely well. Chris is aggressive at the plate and when he gets on base. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
While Duff was the offensive catalyst on this particular day, Hawley’s offense was hitting on all cylinders up & down the order.
Page 2 of 2 - Kenny Ciszak, Erik Pulkkinen, David Ortiz, Cameron Wolfson and Goetz each smoked two hits in piling up 13 runs.
Post 311 batters chased Stauffer from the hill after four frames as Coach Smith called on Sean Miller to stop the bleeding.
This change made little difference to the red-hot Toros, who merely took a breather for two innings before exploding for five more runs in the top of the seventh.
Pulkkinen got things going with a lead-off single. Erik Promptly stole second and raced home moments later when Ortiz ripped an RBI double to left centerfield.
Wolfson followed with a run-scoring base knock of his own before Mike Henry stepped up and crushed a ground rule double.
Duff then did his final bit of damage by lacing a line single to right. The ball took a nasty hop, eluding Milford’s Chris Barbaro and rolling all the way to the wall. Three runs came in and Hawley’s lead ballooned to a seemingly insurmountable 13-7.
Over & Out
Ortiz drew the starting nod in this one and had his hands full trying to duplicate Pulkkinen’s Game One effort.
Erik absorbed a hard-luck loss in the opener, striking out seven and not allowing an earned run through seven frames. Ortiz struggled at times in Game Two, but manag-ed to pitch his way out of big trouble several times.
“David really battled out there today,” Coach Goetz said. “I don’t think he had his best stuff, but he fought hard. He’s a competitor. David would’ve stayed out there and thrown 150 pitches if I asked him to.”
Fortunately for Ortiz’s arm, that wasn’t necessary. Chris got himself into one last jam in the home half of the sixth.
James Goetz came on in relief with the bases loaded and just one out, but limited the damage to only one Milford run. Goetz battled control issues in the seventh, but sealed the deal on a big win by striking out Kyle Clark with the bases juiced.
“James did a really nice job,” said Coach Goetz. “He really got us out of some trouble there in the sixth, but then he had some control issues in the seventh. Overall, though, he gve us a big boost. We were thin on pitching today, so that was huge.”
Score by Innings...
HAW (15-3) 2 0 4 2 0 0 5 - 13
MIL (12-6) 2 0 1 1 0 3 3 - 10