Matthew Gibson-Joel Colledge-Ty Diehl

Youngstown Creekside Crocodiles’ Matthew Gibson, right, is tagged out attempting to steal home, by Martella’s Pharmacy pitcher Joel Colledge, top, who was behind catcher Ty Diehl, in the bottom of the first inning of a AAABA tournament game at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point in Johnstown, PA., Monday, Aug.5, 2019.

Adam Cecere almost wasn’t in town to deliver one of the biggest hits in the opener of the 75th annual AAABA Tournament on Monday night at Sargent’s Stadium.

Cecere, who has been taking summer courses at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was briefly forgotten at a gas station in West Virginia during the return trip home.

Had his father Ralph not doubled back to get him and finish a six-plus hour drive, Cecere might not have smashed a double to the deepest part of right field to set up the game-winning rally in a 7-6 victory over the Youngstown Creekside Crocodiles in front of an estimated 5,500 fans.

“My father’s a trooper,” said Cecere, a Forest Hills graduate who will play Division I baseball for Wake Forest coach Tom Walter, a AAABA Hall of Famer from Johnstown. “He drove down last night to about an hour away from Wake Forest. Slept on a mattress in a Wal-Mart parking lot, woke up this morning, got some breakfast and picked me up at 11 o’clock. He drove the 6 1/2 hours back. I didn’t touch the wheel once.

“He did leave me at a gas station for 5 minutes. He started driving down the road and forgot I was not in the back. Other than that, we got home in really good time.”

Say what?

“He got gas. I went into the bathroom, came out and the car was gone,” Adam Cecere said. “In the middle of West Virginia. I called him on my watch. ‘Dad, where are you?’ He looked in the back of the car and I wasn’t there.

“He drove back and got me.”

Cecere went 2-for-5 with one run batted in. He was among a line of players who helped the defending AAABA Tournament champions collect 11 hits.

Second baseman Jack Oberdorf hit a two-run homer over the left-field screen and placed a two-run triple into the gap in right-center.

“He was down 3-0 and he threw me a strike on the outside corner, I fouled one off and put a pretty good swing on it,” Oberdorf said of his home-run at-bat. 

“He came back with the same thing and I was ready for it. I threw the hands on it and got the barrel.

“He came at me with a first-pitch curveball, a little off the zone,” Oberdorff said of the triple. “I was expecting heater on the next pitch and I got it. I was trying to go opposite field and get those runs in.”

Martella’s led 6-3 in the top of the eighth, but a determined Creekside Crocodiles squad tied the game with a three-run eighth and were in position to tie it or win with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

“Hard-fought from Pitch 1,” Martella’s manager Jesse Cooper said.

“They were confident when they were down. You could see it in their swings,” Cooper added of Youngstown, which also had 11 hits but stranded 10 baserunners. 

“They did not put their heads down one pitch in that game. Our guys just kept punching back.”

Youngstown started quickly with Jason Swope’s single and Matt Gibson’s double to left-center field. But Joel Colledge nearly escaped the jam, inducing two ground outs.

With runners on second and third, a wild pitch led to a run, but when the throw to the plate skipped towards second base, Gibson tried to score and was thrown out, ending the inning.

In the Martella’s second, Phillip Dull walked, moved up on Ray Watt’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Cecere’s single to right field.

With one out in the fifth, Dylan Gearhart singled and Oberdorf smashed a two-run homer over the screen in left-center field to give Martella’s a 3-1 lead.

“It was awesome. The stadium was electric,” Oberdorf said.

Youngstown tallied single runs in the fifth on Gibson’s sacrifice fly, and in the sixth after Johnstown made two throwing errors on the same pick-off play.

Cecere reached on an error to start the eighth. Ty Diehl’s sacrifice bunt and Jake Ansell’s single gave Martella’s a 4-3 advantage.

Gearhart had an infield single and Oberdorf followed with a drive that got between two outfielders and rolled in right-center for a two-run triple that made it 6-3.

Pad O’Shaunessy hit a two-run homer over the wall in left-center field to pull Youngstown within one. 

Bryce Richey’s two-out single tied it 6-all in the bottom of the eighth.

Martella’s Watt hit an infield single and Cecere ripped a deep fly ball that bounced over the right field fence for a double. Ty Diehl’s infield single gave Johnstown a 7-6 lead.

“Last night I was so pumped to play in this tournament game I slept for an hour and a half,” Cecere said. 

“I woke up and gave a 10-minute speech in public speaking class. Got on the road at 11 o’clock and got here at 5:30 and hit batting practice.

“I still have a week of class left but I’m going to have to finish that online. I had to get back here to play in this tournament. 75th anniversary. 

“My dad proposed to my mom right there at home plate (in 1995). I’ve been battling with these guys half the summer, so I had to get back.”

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.

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