JOHNSTOWN – Sparked by a six-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning, and a game-ending home run by Jared Singletary in the seventh, the New Orleans Boosters opened their 75th year as part of the AAABA Tournament the same way that they ended their 74th trip: By beating Martella’s Pharmacy.
New Orleans, which won the 2019 edition of the tournament, began its defense of its nearly two-year-old crown with a with a 12-2 mercy-rule-shortened victory over Johnstown-2 franchise Martella’s Pharmacy on Monday afternoon at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
The two clubs had met in the previous two tournament finals, splitting the meetings.
“Once we saw the bracket come out (on Sunday night), I think our guys seized the opportunity and saw this as a great way to open the tournament,” New Orleans manager Joey Latino said. “Obviously, Martella’s is traditionally one of the finer clubs in the tournament, and I think we took that as a challenge to come out and play our best.”
New Orleans tagged Martella’s Pharmacy pitcher Jared Dowey for a pair of runs in first inning, using Brayden Caskey’s lead-off single and a base on balls drawn by Brady Faust to set the table for Christian Westcott’s two-run single.
The Boosters never looked back as starting pitcher Carson Lore went the distance, striking out eight while allowing two runs on seven hits.
“He went to that sinker early in the count,” Martella’s Pharmacy manager Kerry Pfeil said.
“He was using that sinker as his out pitch. Then he started using it early and late.
“When you get down that many runs, he’s out there throwing freely, and he’s forcing you to put the ball in play and rely on his defense.”
Those Martella’s Pharmacy runs happened in the second and third innings as Brett Morris doubled off the screen in left field and scored two batters later when Philip Dull also sent a Lore offering off the screen.
After New Orleans replied in the bottom of the second when Singletary doubled and scored on Nick Lorio’s groundout to shortstop, Dowey singled with one out in the third and later scored on Jake Felton’s base hit.
After Felton’s run-scoring knock, Martella’s Pharmacy only picked up two more hits against Lore.
“I just kept throwing strikes,” Lore said. “I know that my defense can make plays behind me. If I keep throwing strikes, they’ll make the plays for me.”
While Lore was keeping the Johnstown-2 club at bay, New Orleans built a 5-2 lead through four innings before putting the game out of reach in the fifth with a six-run outburst on seven hits – all off Dowey.
A leadoff triple to deep right by Caskey opened the fireworks show before Faust grounded out to score Caskey.
Westcott singled, but was gunned down by Martella’s catcher Zach Ramach while trying to steal second.
The two-out magic began afterward when Westcott worked a walk just before Stephan Klein reached base on a high-arcing pop fly that dropped among three Martella’s Pharmacy defenders.
“When you blink against New Orleans, they’re going to score on you,” Pfeil said. “That’s what good franchises do, and of course we know that they’re a good franchise.”
Singletary and Josh Alexander singled to drive in Westcott and Klein, respectively. Both then came in on Lorio’s two-RBI double. Broussard singled in Lorio to make it 11-2 and end Dowey’s afternoon after 4 2/3 innings.
“I was actually quite proud of how Dowey threw (Monday),” Pfeil said. “When you match up with New Orleans in the first game, you see where you sit, and this one got away from us.
“But we feel fully confident moving in to the rest of the week.”
Singletary, who had three hits, scored three runs and drove in two, greeted Martella’s Pharmacy reliever Alec Petroff with a home run to left that just snuck inside the pole to put the Boosters ahead 12-2 and trigger the mercy rule. It was a welcome sight for Latino, who pointed out the value of shortened games during the week-long tournament.
“The two biggest things that we took from this game are that we had to play two less innings and we only used one arm to do it,” Latino said. “In a tournament like this, that’s huge. Especially on Day 1.”
Westcott and Singletary each had three hits for New Orleans, which posted 15 total against Martella’s Pharmacy pitching.
Caskey, Lorio, who had four RBIs, and Broussard each had two in the win.
Omar Ward collected two hits for Martella’s Pharmacy.
Shawn Curtis is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnCurtis430.