Paul Carpenter Capital Advisors repeated as regular-season champion in the Johnstown Collegiate Baseball League, but manager Dave Sheriff and his players aren’t content simply to hold one of Johnstown’s two spots in the upcoming 76th AAABA Tournament.
Paul Carpenter will make its fifth straight trip to the national tournament, and league runner-up Martella’s Pharmacy will advance to the big show for the 12th consecutive year.
The Advisors, however, never have made it as the playoff champion – as the Johnstown host team playing in the night games throughout the week.
“It would be a big step for our franchise,” said Sheriff, whose squad was AAABA Tournament runner-up as the Johns- town-2 representative in 2017 and 2016.
“We’ve never had the night game coming in for opening night. That’s something our franchise is trying to get a hold of for the first time.
“We’ve preached the tournament to our guys all year and what the tournament is about.”
Paul Carpenter and second-seeded Martella’s Pharmacy will begin a best-of-5 league championship series on Thursday at Roxbury Park.
All games in the series will begin at 7 p.m. Game 2 will be on Friday at Roxbury. The final three games, if the final two contests are necessary, are Saturday through Monday at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
Paul Carpenter swept its JCBL semifinal series against fourth-seeded O, and Martella’s Pharmacy finished off third-seeded Smith Transport in four games.
Martella’s Pharmacy made history as Johnstown’s first AAABA Tournament champion with a magical run through the 2018 pool-play event. Since 2009, Martella’s has been in every AAABA Tournament, seven times as the local playoff champion and four times as Johnstown-2.
The orange-and-blue clad team has gone 31-17 in the tournament during that span, with a 6-0 mark in 2018 and a 5-1 record as national runner-up in 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 AAABA Tournament. Despite an often dominating 2020 season, including a 26-2 regular-season mark and a 6-0 playoff run, Paul Carpenter had no opportunity to showcase the franchise on the biggest stage once the tournament was canceled due to the global pandemic.
“We had a good series in the regular season,” Martella’s manager Kerry Pfeil said.
“Paul Carpenter has been hot this season and last season. We have to step up our game. We know the success they had.
“They’re really dying to have their first ticket punched to be the night team in the tournament.”
Paul Carpenter won the regular-season series 4-3. The Advisors took the first three games, and Martella’s won the next three.
PCCA won the final game 7-3 on July 5.
Each team scored a combined 23 runs in the seven-game series, which included three contests decided by two or fewer runs.
“I personally think the series will go all five games,” Sheriff said. “If the pitching holds up on both sides, it’s going to be a battle until the end.”
Paul Carpenter is led by JCBL award winners Sam Contacos, a catcher who was named league MVP and the batting champion (.474), and Pete Vuckovich Award winner Ben Mongelluzzo. The Advisors had all-JCBL representation in first baseman Billy Perroz, the league RBI leader; third baseman Jace Cappelinni; outfielder Jordan Sabol; designated hitter Jayden Taitano; starting pitcher Ben Visnesky; and relief pitcher Justin Wright.
“We’re solid 1 through 9. I don’t think we have a weak bat in our lineup,” Sheriff said.
“They all put the ball in play. We just have to worry about getting good, quality at-bats and get good pitches. We have to be patient and work on situational hitting.
“Ben Visnesky is going to be the Game 1 starter,” Sheriff added. “He has a lot of experience. He pitched Game 1 in the tournament two years ago. He has a big-game presence and that’s going to help us in Game 1.”
Martella’s Pharmacy also had a league award winner in Jared Dowey, a recent Bedford Area High School graduate who plays both outfield and infield. Dowey shared the Ken Horoho Award winner as the top first-year position player with Smith Transport shortstop Joe Olsavsky.
Martella’s all-JCBL players included catcher Zach Ramach; veteran outfielder Omar Ward, who was a key leader on the 2018 AAABA championship squad; starting pitcher Michael Marinchak; and relief pitcher Kyle Glass.
“You’ve got to be ready for Omar. He’s a seasoned veteran in the league,” Sheriff said. “He was something like 13-for-15 against us. That’s something we have to be aware of. We really have to watch his bat.
“He did a number on us.”
Martella’s outfielder Ryne Wallace predicted a tight series moments after his team clinched its semifinal round victory over Smith Transport on Tuesday night at Roxbury. Wallace went 2-for-2 with three runs and a pivotal two-run homer.
“It’s obviously going to be a tight one,” Wallace said of the matchup with Paul Carpenter. “If we play like we know how, we’ll make it work. But it’s going to be tough.
“They’re going to bring it. We’re going to bring it. Playing for the night game in the tournament. It’s going to be exciting.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.