JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – A 17-hit barrage sparked by Owen Petrich driving in six runs and hitting for the cycle boosted the Philadelphia Bandits to the semifinals of the 76th AAABA Tournament with a 12-4 win over Martella’s Pharmacy on Thursday afternoon at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
The Bandits, who have outscored opponents 60-4 in four games this week, will face New Orleans in one of Friday’s semifinal matches at noon at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
For the Bandits, topping Martella’s Pharmacy added to the lore of a recent series of high-stakes and high-profile meetings between the two teams. As the Johnstown-1 club in 2019, Martella’s Pharmacy topped Philadelphia 5-2 in the semifinals. Martella’s Pharmacy also topped Philadelphia on opening night in 2018.
Thursday was the Bandits’ day, however.
“We expected that, (Martella’s Pharmacy) is a good ballclub,” Philadelphia manager Greg Olenski said. “Two years ago, they beat us in a win-or-go-home situation, and we returned the favor this year.”
The loss wraps up the tournament and the season for Martella’s Pharmacy, which qualified as the Johnstown-2 entrant in this year’s field.
The Bandits (4-0) grabbed a 1-0 lead off Martella’s Pharmacy starter Garrett Starr when Eric Marasheski doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Petrich. Another Philadelphia run came in during the second when Marasheski drove in Justin Massielo with a single to left field.
Philadelphia, which hadn’t allowed a run during pool play and had only saw one runner reach third base in those three games, escaped damage in the fourth when Martella’s Pharmacy loaded the bases with two outs as Tyler Suder worked a base on balls from Matt McShane with Brett Morris and Phillip Dull already on base. Bryce McCleester grounded out to ward off the threat.
Philadelphia replied with a six-run effort in the bottom of the fourth with Petrich’s two-RBI single and run-scoring hits from Phil Stahl, Anthony Bruno and Massielo helping to run the score to 8-0.
Prior to the game-busting sequence of hits, a Cavan Tully fly ball to center field was ruled by umpires to be trapped by Jared Dowey, loading the bases for Petrich.
It drew Martella’s Pharmacy manager Kerry Pfeil out for a conversation, but the chatter wasn’t contentious.
“I believed that they got the call right,” Pfeil said. “I think he trapped it. Jared came up and really thought he caught it, but from our vantage point, we believe it short-hopped and that they got the call right.”
Martella’s Pharmacy finally landed a glove on Philadelphia in the fifth inning, using a one-out double by Dowey to set the table for an eventual RBI double from Omar Ward. Two more Johns- town-2 runs came in the sixth as Morris walked and scored on a groundout by Suder.
Dull, who doubled to center after Morris’ base on balls, came home when an errant pickoff throw to first gave Dull the time to trot in from third.
“We knew coming in that they were a great ballclub,” Olenski said. “So our guys knew, and they were prepared for anything. I think we had some jitters playing in this stadium, but it woke us up for sure.”
Philadelphia added single runs in the sixth and seventh with Perich’s home run to left completing his cycle – the second in three days at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point – in the sixth, while Tully singled and scored in the bottom of the seventh.
The Bandits scored their final runs in the eighth as Trey Obarowski singled in Massielo before coming home on a bases-loaded walk drawn by Perich.
Jake Ansell led off the Martella’s Pharmacy ninth with an infield single and then scored on a double from Jake Felton.
After surrendering a base hit to Morris following Felton’s double, Philadelphia reliever Ryan Conover struck out Dull and ended the game when Matt Frazetta grounded into a fielder’s choice at shortstop.
Conover pitched four innings in relief of McShane, earning the save while allowing a run on five hits and striking out seven.
McShane pitched five-plus innings, with six strikeouts and six walks as he gave up three runs with two earned.
Marasheski had three hits while Tully, Stahl, Bruno and Massielo each had two.
Morris and McCleester each had two hits in the loss.
While the loss ended the Martella’s Pharmacy run in the tournament in the quarterfinals, after the franchise had won Johnstown’s first AAABA championship in 2018 and reached the final in ’19, Pfeil was quick to acknowledge that his club ran into two of the tourney’s top contenders.
“I thought in our side of the brackets, there was going to be one of three teams coming out,” Pfeil said. “Either us, New Orleans or Philadelphia. Philadelphia has a great organization.
“They’ve really built it back up.
“Those are the two teams that we lost to. It’s not uncommon for us to be knocked out of this tournament by the national champion. I wouldn’t be surprised if Philadelphia or New Orleans wins this 76th tournament.”
The Bandits, in their second straight semifinal, are ready.
“Our guys are prepared,” Olenski said. “Every time that we step on a field, we want to win a ballgame. The ultimate team goal is to win a championship.”
Shawn Curtis is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat.
He can be reached at 814-532-5085. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnCurtis430.