CRESSON – A 16-run loss on opening day is enough to test the resolve of the most veteran of baseball teams, let alone one as young as Johnston Realty.
However, the Altoona AAABA League runner-up showed youth also can bring a welcome resilience.
“Obviously, we weren’t happy,” outfielder Tyreke Green said, “but you can always have bad games. Everyone’s going to have bad games. You can’t let it hold you down.”
Instead of letting its Day 1 rout at the hands of Philadelphia be an anchor, the Altoona team used it as a springboard in Pool B AAABA Tournament play. Green was one of five batters with at least three hits as Johnston Realty flipped the script in a big way, batting around in three different times to dispatch the Zanesville Junior Pioneers in seven innings, 18-1, on Tuesday at Mount Aloysius College.
“We just really wanted to bounce back. I feel like everybody was locked in right as soon as they stepped on the field,” Altoona catcher Joey DeRubeis said.
DeRubeis and Portage Area High School graduate Josh Morgan each went 4-for-6 to headline Johnston Realty’s 21-hit onslaught. DeRubeis also scored four times and highlighted Altoona’s six-run fourth with a bases-loaded triple.
DeRubeis had plenty of assistance: Every Altoona batter scored at least once and six scored multiple runs.
Green, Owen Kravetz and Zach Boslet contributed three hits apiece, while Brendan Kuhns drove in four runs and Green three.
Johnston Realty needed the win to keep its hopes alive to make it into the elimination round. That will be decided Wednesday at Westmont Hilltop High School when it faces Cleveland in a battle of 1-1 squads. Cleveland beat Zanesville 13-1 in its opener, but dropped a 10-0 decision to Philadelphia on Tuesday.
“There’s not one kid on my team that’s played in Johnstown ever. They’re very young, and I think they went in a little big-headed (against Philadelphia) and they got smacked down,” Altoona manager Denny Newberry said. “I told them, ‘Play our game. Don’t try to be something that we’re not.’ It’s a big difference. We only had three hits (on Monday) and we put up 21 today.”
Zanesville only had 10 players, and the Pioneers were down to nine when Carter Smith injured his calf diving into first to avoid a double play in the fifth inning.
“I had a lot of guys who had to back out because of school reasons or work,” Junior Pioneers manager Jay Bonifant said. “It’s something we’re going to work on next year. We’re going to work on getting a total commitment for the week.”
Zanesville was limited to four singles by Altoona pitchers Cody Becker and Sam Homan, and Ben Skerritt accounted for half of them. Still, the Pioneers carried a 1-0 lead into the top of the third when Johnston Realty sent 13 batters to the plate and scored eight times.
DeRubeis singled and scored twice in the frame.
“We really started to mash the ball,” DeRubeis said.
It was more of the same in the fourth – Altoona scored six runs on six hits. DeRubeis and Green both tripled.
“It just turns our whole energy around to come in here and score a lot of runs, put up 21 hits. It proves we can play with anyone,” Green said.
Johnston Realty scored four more in the sixth to bring the 10-run rule into effect. The Altoona players left the field hoping they can ride the wave to a couple of more games.
“I definitely think we still have something to prove,” DeRubeis said.