As the defending champion in the 75th annual AAABA Tournament, Martella’s Pharmacy entered the weeklong event wearing a figurative target.
The Johnstown representative embraced the role and advanced to the championship game on Saturday night against the New Orleans Boosters. Both teams carried a 5-0 record into the title contest at Sargent’s Stadium.
Martella’s became the 10th team to represent Johnstown in the AAABA Tournament championship game.
Saturday was the eighth time a Johnstown league playoff champion competed for the tournament title.
Two of the Johnstown-2 representatives also made it to the championship game.
A look at the past title games involving Johnstown teams:
1956 Hahn Packing
On Aug. 21, 1956, Hahn Packing was Johnstown’s first AAABA Tournament finalist, playing in front of 9,000 fans at Point Stadium.
Federal Storage of Washington, D.C., rallied in the last two innings to defeat Hahn Packing 4-2 and win the championship. Manager Ken Keiper’s team would have had to beat Washington twice to claim the crown.
The final game was a pitcher’s duel between left-hander Pete Pekich of Hahn’s and Tony Baker of Washington.
A 2017 AAABA Hall of Fame inductee, Pekich struck out 11 and walked four in a five-hitter. The Johnstown pitcher struck out 36 batters in 25 AAABA Tournament innings in ’56 and signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians right after the game.
Baker struck out 14 batters and walked three in a six-hitter for his second win of the tournament.
Johnstown led 2-1 entering the top of the eighth, but Pekich had a brief wild spell and walked three and the game-tying run scored. In the ninth, Federal Storage’s Gary Miller doubled down the right-field line to drive in the game-winning runs.
Six players on that Hahn Packing team played professional baseball, including Pekich, Tony Joseph, Jack Horvath, Barry Sipes, Ron Ling and Bob Kucher. George Hanna was offered a pro contract but played at Division I Arizona State University instead.
Sani-Dairy had a knack for coming together to pull out win after win in the 1995 tournament. Manager Scott Close’s squad overcame a 7-0 deficit and beat Buffalo 17-15 to become the first Johnstown team to reach the championship round in 39 years.
Undefeated New Orleans’ Casey Cuntz, the tournament MVP a year earlier, hit a three-run homer in the first inning of the title game, which the Louisiana team won 12-2 in seven innings. Brian Hughes won the 1995 MVP honor by going 16-for-24 for New Orleans.
Sani-Dairy was led by two-time league MVP Ross Kott, who had ties to New Orleans by playing at Delgado Community College, a team led by then-New Orleans manager Joe Scheuermann.
Scheuermann, like Kott, is a AAABA Hall of Famer.
Kott could have played for New Orleans in the summer of 1995, but opted to stay home. Brian Shipley and Brian Anderson each joined Kott among the tournament batting leaders. Gino Betta had two hits in the loss to New Orleans.
2001 Galliker Dairy
Manager Butch Odenthal’s Galliker Dairy team opened the tournament at 5-0 and had wins over perennial powers Washington and Baltimore along the way.
Galliker’s pitcher and tournament Most Valuable Player Anthony Zambotti pitched a gem in a 2-1 victory over Baltimore that sent Johnstown to the title round against Washington D.C.
Washington won 6-3 on a Saturday night, forcing a decisive game on a Sunday afternoon. The Arlington Senators took the title with an 8-2 win.
Zambotti won two games, while striking out 29 batters in 17 innings with a 1.06 ERA. He won the 2001 Point Stadium Award for his win over Baltimore.
Manager Chris DelSignore told reporters after a 5-4 loss to the Washington D.C. Arlington Senators on the fifth day of the tournament that his team had played tentatively. He was quoted in print and on TV saying he was not impressed by the perennial powerhouse.
Two days later, Delweld stunned two-time defending champion Washington 6-3 in a rematch to earn a spot against Baltimore in the title game.
Baltimore won 19-0 in the lopsided championship game to start a string of six consecutive titles by the Orioles.
Future major league pitcher Kevin Hart of Baltimore was named MVP of the tournament.
The Orioles scored seven runs in the first inning, and Hart’s grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning was a big blow to Delweld, which was led by Brandon McCreary (.423) and Brandon Bowser (.406) in the tournament.
Baltimore pitcher Francis Brooke tossed a six-hit shutout as Youse’s Maryland Orioles defeated the Johnstown franchise 4-0. Baltimore dominated the tournament while going 6-0 and outscoring teams by a combined 41-6.
Delweld was led by standouts such as Drew Westover (.423), George Roberts (.417) and Matt Donaldson (.308), who each batted over .300 in the tournament.
Carter Lehman was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA, and Matt Skoner went 1-0 with a 0.14 ERA. Bobby Carbaugh had a tournament high 14 innings pitched with 10 strikeouts.
Delweld beat Baltimore 7-5 on the fourth day of the tournament and opened 5-0 after a victory over Cleveland in the semifinals.
Baltimore beat New Orleans in an elimination game to meet Delweld in the title round.
The Orioles won 12-5 to force a second game, which Baltimore won 13-3 to claim the crown.
Baltimore used a six-run first inning in the title-game rematch to put Johnstown in a deep hole.
Ryan Ripken, the son of Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., had 13 RBIs in the 2013 tournament and was named the most valuable player.
2016 Paul Carpenter Capital Advisors
Paul Carpenter advanced through Pool B with a 2-1 record as the 2016 tournament used a pool play format for the first time.
Johnstown-2, led by Dave Sheriff and his son, GM/assistant coach Tayler Sheriff, defeated Brooklyn 16-10 in the single-elimination play on Thursday after advancing out of its pool.
The ticket to the championship game came in historic fashion as Paul Carpenter’s Patrick Ferguson smashed a mammoth, three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to propel the Johnstown-2 squad to a comeback 7-6 win over Cleveland.
Left-handed-hitting pinch-hitter Ferguson’s home run to right field went over the stands and past the rotunda before landing in the Stonycreek River after leaving the stadium.
The next day, Tayler Sheriff made his way into the Stonycreek to retrieve the historic baseball, which landed in shallow water.
The Cinderella tale ended in the championship game for one team and had a storybook ending for another.
The Zanesville Junior Pioneers defeated Paul Carpenter 8-2 in the title game in front of an estimated 4,000 fans at Point Stadium.
It was the Ohio city’s first AAABA Tournament crown in its first championship game appearance. Ironically, Zanesville finished 1-2 in Pool D and would have been eliminated under the previous double-elimination format.
2017 Paul Carpenter Capital Advisors
The Johnstown-2 team became the city’s first franchise to appear in back-to-back title games.
New Orleans starter Jonathan Ebersole threw six-plus strong innings and reliever Chris Turpin retired nine of the 10 batters he faced as the Boosters shut down a hot-hitting Paul Carpenter team in a 4-1 title game victory in front of 3,500 fans at the Point.
New Orleans finished 6-0 behind a staff that had a 1.26 ERA in 50 innings pitched.
The Boosters gave up eight runs during the tournament.
Paul Carpenter center fielder Raven Beeman, of Somerset, earned AAABA Tournament MVP honors with a tourney-best .619 batting average (13-for-21).
2018 Martella’s Pharmacy
Manager Jesse Cooper’s team made Martella’s Pharmacy’s first appearance in the title game after the franchise had been playing for 20 seasons as either the Johnstown Grays or Martella’s.
Martella’s left-handed pitcher Brady Walker pitched a gem in the title game against perennial power New Orleans Boosters, throwing 82/3 innings, and reliever T.J. Adams recorded the final out with a swinging strikeout as Johnstown won the AAABA Tournament for the first time in the host city’s history, 3-2 over the New Orleans at Sargent’s Stadium.
New Orleans had the bases loaded, and Adams pitched to a 3-2 count before recording the out that set off a wild celebration at the Point and led to a parade and Central Park rally the following week.
Johnstown plated three runs in the second inning, which was highlighted by Boston Bradley’s run-scoring single.
New Orleans’ Blake Freeman hit a towering solo home run over the brick wall in deep center field to make it 3-1.
The Boosters rallied for a run on two hits, a hit batsman and a walk in the top of the ninth. New Orleans’ Brandon Briuglio earned AAABA Tournament MVP honors.
Johnstown’s Omar Ward was the tournament RBI leader with 11. Walker was presented the Tribune-Democrat Award to the local franchise’s MVP.