Laurel Auto Group hurler Doug Cannon was carving up Martella’s Pharmacy heading into the sixth inning of Sunday’s Game 2 of the Johnstown Collegiate Baseball League best-of-5 semifinal round series. The Mount Aloysius right-hander had retired 10 of 12 batters between the second and fifth innings.
Facing Cannon for the third time through the order, Martella’s was searching for a spark while trailing by just one run. Phillip Dull provided the needed jolt by blasting a pitch over the left-field screen to tie the game at 3.
Martella’s added runs in the seventh and eighth, and relievers Matt Mosholder and Jack Oberdorf combined to shut out Laurel Auto over the final six frames as the five-time reigning postseason champs took a 2-0 series lead with a 5-3 victory at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
“As a team, our coach describes it as laziness, but I personally think it’s just an edge that we have,” Dull said of not scoring in four innings after tallying two runs in the first. “We’re all so big into baseball that we get down a run, our heads would drop a little bit, but then we’ll come back with a fire. All around, our team confidence is great.”
Although Martella’s manager Jesse Cooper’s message to his team after the second inning didn’t pay off immediately, the team came through with three unanswered runs between the sixth and eighth innings.
“It just all came down to our hitters’ energy at the end of the day,” Cooper said. “Our dugout, we kind of fell into a lull there in those middle innings. We brought them together and said, ‘We just got to come together and bring a little bit more energy to the field.’ They responded really well.”
Rain delayed the start of Sunday’s game by 30 minutes.
After compiling three runs on four hits in the first two innings, Laurel Auto could only muster four hits over the final seven frames.
“It’s a hard-fought series. Unfortunately, our hitting has been off,” Laurel Auto manager Joe Perez said. “We’ve been struggling offensively. If we would have been able to generate some kind of offense, I think this wouldn’t even be a series, honestly. It’s just frustrating right now. We played so well against them in the regular season (3-4). Hopefully we can extend the series and just keep going.”
Martella’s compiled 11 hits, led by Drew Frear’s three knocks at the top of the lineup. Troy Emert, Dylan Gearhart and Oberdorf (two RBIs) all collected two hits.
Oberdorf pitched the final 12/3 innings for the save.
Eight different Laurel Auto players produced one hit. Dallas Hite stole three bases.
In the top of the first, Gearhart’s RBI double and Oberdorf’s run-scoring single put Martella’s ahead 2-0.
Laurel Auto answered in the bottom half. Brennan Mitchell led off with a single and came home on a wild pitch by starter Devin Foster.
RBI groundouts from Macen Akers and Mitchell gave Laurel Auto its first lead at 3-2 in the second.
Upon fouling off two offerings from Cannon, Dull unloaded on a 1-2 pitch to force a 3-all tie with a blast over the screen in left.
“I was sitting breaking ball that entire at-bat because the kid coming back with off-speed, off-speed, off-speed,” Dull said. “I was getting upset because I kept hitting inside fastballs into the ground.
“But then he threw me a high fastball, where I could hit it. Even sitting curveball, I still caught back up to it.”
The shot energized Martella’s dugout.
“Phil had a great at-bat and put one over the wall there to tie us up,” Cooper said. “We followed it the next couple innings with one run each.”
Martella’s Ray Watt led off the seventh with a bunt base hit. Watt stole second and eventually scored on a double play.
In the eighth, Oberdorf brought home Dull with an RBI single to set the final.
Mosholder earned the win after tossing 41/3 scoreless frames, fanning three and stranding two runners in scoring position.
“I trust Matt Mosholder in that situation,” Cooper said. “That’s his spot right there, eating up those middle innings. He scattered a couple walks and a couple soft hits, but he was able to get himself out of jams. Our defense played great behind him.”
Laurel Auto threatened with runners on first and second in the eighth with one out.
Oberdorf was called upon to put out the fire. The right-hander induced two swinging strikeouts on elevated fastballs to end the inning.
“Then Jack Oberdorf came in and threw strikes. That’s what you want in those eighth and ninth innings,” Cooper said. “He got us out of a jam there in the eighth and that was real big for us.”
Cooper expects a spirited effort from Laurel Auto in Game 3 on Monday. A win for Martella’s would clinch a berth in the league finals.
“Laurel’s played us tough all year. They’re a scrappy bunch,” he said. “We know that we have that target on our back, and they’re going to come out and play real hard against us (Monday).”