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Martella’s elimination leaves UPJ player rooting for Altoona in AAABA Tournament

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AAABA | Altoona vs. Martella's

Martella’s Pharmacy catcher Dan Wukich reacts after Altoona scored to tie the game in the fifth inning on Saturday night at Point Stadium. Altoona’s Wise Trailer Sales eliminated the Johnstown entry from the AAABA Tournament with a 7-4 victory.

Pitt-Johnstown baseball coach Todd Williams settled into his back-row seat near the press box an hour before the start of Saturday night’s AAABA Tournament game at Point Stadium.

He didn’t need a roster for the rivalry game between the Johnstown and Altoona.

Martella’s Pharmacy had nine players on its roster with ties to the UPJ baseball program, including Williams’ son, Luke, while Wise Trailer Sales had four.

“I think they enjoy playing against each other when they get the opportunity,” Todd Williams said. “I love watching all my guys.

“I sit here and root for them all. I’m proud of them all. I try and stay neutral.”

UPJ players figured prominently in the outcome for both teams – a 7-4 victory for Altoona that knocked Martella’s Pharmacy from the double-elimination tournament with a 3-2 record.

“We had a great season, no doubt about it,” said Martella’s third baseman Nate Negri, who will be a senior at UPJ. “We won the AAABA League and the postseason, and we wanted this one, too.

“It’s sad to see it end this way. We were so close.”

Altoona, which improved to 4-1 and has two runner-up finishes in the AAABA Tournament, will face newcomer Boston (4-1) in an elimination game Sunday at 1 p.m. at Point Stadium.

The winner will meet perennial power New Orleans (5-1) at 4 p.m. for the championship.

“I played with (Altoona) a few years back, and there’s still a couple of players over there who I am pulling for,” Negri said. “I wish them well.”

Incoming UPJ freshman recruit Trentin Martin pitched 61⁄3 innings of relief for Altoona to get the win. He allowed just four hits and no earned runs while striking out four and walking three. He survived Martella’s two-run rally in the ninth.

With Altoona clinging to a 4-2 lead in the eighth, Martin worked out of a bases-loaded jam, striking out future UPJ teammate Ernest Rizzitano, who already had two hits.

“It was good experience seeing what they can do, and it gave me a chance to throw against them,” Martin said. “It’s something that probably won’t happen again.”

“He pitched well tonight,” Negri said. “I can’t wait to see him on campus in blue and gold.”

Altoona broke a 2-2 deadlock with two runs in the bottom of the seventh and three more in the eighth against Johnstown, which will have to wait at least another year to continue its chase for the tournament title that has eluded it for 71 years.

“We want to win this tournament, not only for Martella’s, but for the city of Johnstown,” manager Paul Knupp said.

​Ron Musselman is a reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @ronmusselman8.