Safe at Second

New Orleans Bryan Bounds dives back into first base as Buffalo Royal Printing 1st basemen Ryan Voight tries to find a handle on the ball in 2nd inning at Sargent's Stadium in Johnstown, Pa.

After the New Orleans Boosters grabbed a one-run lead in the first inning of Friday’s semifinal of the 75th AAABA Tournament, Buffalo Royal Printing had a few chances at getting runs of its own.

Twice it was third baseman Grant Schulz snaring balls that were destined to aid Royal Printing’s cause.

On the other side of the diamond, a a rally-killing stop and throw from second baseman Brandon Duhon thwarted Buffalo’s best chance at runs as Ryan Voight slammed a ball deep in the hole at second with runners at second and third.

With Voight up with two outs in the sixth, a hard grounder was scooped by a tumbling Duhon, who fired a dart to Brayden Jobert to cut down the batter, stranding two Buffalo runners.

The momentum seized from the potential Buffalo rally carried over to New Orleans’ bats as the Boosters posted eight runs, setting a 10-0 final that brought an early end to the contest at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.

“I think that was a momentum changer” Duhon said. “The momentum was up for grabs, and that was the changer right there.”

The win gives New Orleans a third straight trip to the championship round of the tournament, where it will play defending tournament champion Martella’s Pharmacy, which topped Philadelphia in Friday’s other semifinal. First pitch for the title game –  a rematch of the 2018 final – is slated for 6 p.m.

“What can you say?” New Orleans manager Darrin Dares said. “A couple guys have been here for all three (years), a lot of the guys have been here for two. They came up here with a goal in mind, and so far, we’ve been able to get to it. It’s been a good three-year run.”

The sharp defense of the Boosters, who committed zero errors, came in support of starter Blake Marshall, who allowed three hits, walked three and fanned five over six shutout innings. Zachary Roussel finished the game, pitching the bottom of the seventh to preserve the mercy-rule win.

“All I was doing was throwing strikes,” Marshall said. “I knew my defense was playing well behind me. I knew they were going to make plays. All we had to do on the opposite side was hit the ball and get runs.”

For Royal Printing, Friday’s contest veered drastically from competitive to dire during the seventh when back-to-back walks and a hit batsman loaded the bases. A fielder’s choice to shortstop from Brandon Duhon scored a run, while also appearing to clear Michael Stutes off the bases with a force at second. Stutes was ruled safe at second, keeping the bases loaded for Schulz, who drove in three runs with a triple to center, making it 6-0. Jobert followed with a double to drive the lead to 7-0.

Multi-base errors on base hits by Ross Scelfo and Greg Thompson led to three more runs, pushing the Boosters’ lead to 10 runs.

Buffalo’s second loss to New Orleans this week followed a similar pattern where Royal Printing was keeping pace with the Boosters, only to have things fall apart late.

“It’s just embarrassing that we lose by a score that absolutely wasn’t the game,” Buffalo manager Bob Carnevale said. “It’s 2-0 after six, and a horrendous call changes the complexion of the game. People are going to say ‘Oh Buffalo lost 10-0. they weren’t any good anyways.’ ” 

Max Giordano doubled in the six for Buffalo Royal Printing, which had three total hits, but left five runners on base – all against Marshall.

Buffalo starter Noah Thompson fanned six over five innings, allowing two Boosters runs on four hits with four walks.

“We fell short,” Carnevale said. “We really thought we had a chance to win this. But we ran into a 15-time champion. So, losing to a great team … I’m not disappointed about that. 

“We have a veteran team, and if they come back, I have most of my team coming back age-wise for another year. 

So we’ll see what happens, and hopefully we’ll come back and do as good, or better, as we did this year.”

Shawn Curtis is the sports editor for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5085. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnCurtis430.​

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