Matt Wicker hoped to support his pitcher as he stepped to the plate in the sixth inning during Game 1 of the Johnstown Collegiate Baseball League semifinal round on Friday.
The Paul Carpenter Capital Advisors shortstop drove a pitch well over the Screen Monster in left field and over Johns Street.
The three-run home run broke open what had been a tight contest, as regular-season champion Paul Carpenter beat fourth-seeded O 8-1 at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
“It felt really good, and I’m happy I could help (Tyler) Horvat out,” Wicker said. “He was throwing a gem.”
Horvat pitched 71/3 innings, allowing six hits and one run while striking out seven and walking one.
“I think fastball command was big for me,” Horvat said. “In the fourth or fifth inning they started timing it a little bit.
“Until then we were pretty well on the corners. Then we started mixing some offspeed. I think that was the key.”
The Paul Carpenter defense turned three double plays, including one on a liner to center field to end the game with reliever Carter Chinn on the mound.
“Tyler has been a guy we’ve been able to rely on all year,” Paul Carpenter manager Cole Shaffer said of Horvat. “He’s the type of guy you give the ball and you know what you’re going to get from him. He’s going to be effective. He’s going to get outs and not give up many runs.”
The same teams will meet in Game 2 of the best-of-5 series in the late contest on Saturday. Second-seeded Martella’s Pharmacy and third-seeded Laurel Auto Group will play Game 2 in their series at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
“I thought the first five innings we pretty much kept them at bay,” O manager Ken Ashbrook said. “That home run was big for them and it kind of took the wind out us a little bit. (Jayke) Saiani came in and threw well for us in relief.”
Ashbrook called on four pitchers on Friday.
“I kind of used up all my pitching throughout the week just to get in the playoffs,” said Ashbrook, whose team had to beat Smith Transport twice in the final three days of the regular season to clinch the fourth seed. “We platooned (Friday). I actually threw (Nate) Horner again and he threw 80-some pitches (Thursday) night.”
Paul Carpenter took a 2-0 lead in the third as Austin Homer and Wicker each singled, and three other players drew walks.
The O got its run in the top of the fourth. Corey Cavalier doubled off the screen and scored on Chasen Claus’ double.
“I was happy with the way they played,” Ashbrook said. “Just a couple walks here or there and they ended up scoring.”
Bobby Kusinsky was hit by a pitch and Homer, who went 3-for-4, singled with one out in the fourth. A fielder’s choice eventually scored Kusinsky. Justin Wright tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the fifth to make it 4-1.
Paul Carpenter had three hits in the sixth, including doubles by Homer and Josh Spiegel that preceded Wicker’s three-run blast.
“Matty is another guy we’ve been able to count on all season,” Shaffer said.
“He’s a scrappy hitter. He doesn’t miss many pitches.”
Paul Carpenter Capital Advisors only lost two games (26-2) during the Johnstown Collegiate Baseball League regular season and will bring momentum into Game 2.
“Regular season is nice, but you play to win championships,” Horvat said. “That’s what we’re here for, to win championships.”