An old-fashioned pitchers’ duel broke out in Monday’s early Johnstown Collegiate Baseball League contest at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
Both Laurel Auto Group and the Paul Carpenter Capital Advisors looked sluggish offensively coming off of a five-day July 4 break.
Laurel Auto right-hander Julius Thomas, a Ferndale graduate, and Paul Carpenter right-hander Ben Visnesky each went eight innings and only allowed one run. After no squad could score after the fifth inning, the 1-all game went into the 12th inning.
With the go-ahead run at third base with two outs in the bottom half, Laurel Auto’s Cole Shaffer grounded a 3-2 offering between the third baseman and shortstop to score Jeremy Layton and punctuate a 2-1 victory with a walk-off RBI single.
“That was a huge game for us, a huge win in the standings,” Shaffer said. “It keeps us right where we want to be at in the playoff race. You got to hand it to Jules (Thomas) and Lavs (winning pitcher Brenden Lavely), they kept us in that game. Without them, who knows what could have happened. You can spread it out all over a lot of different people, not just that hit at the end.”
Laurel Auto (10-12) avenged a 9-8 loss from five days ago in which it led 8-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh against Paul Carpenter (13-5).
LAG outhit the first-place squad 10-5 on Monday.
“It was a great team victory,” Laurel Auto manager Joe Perez said. “We’ve been playing good baseball all year long. Unfortunately, we’ve been coming up on the short end of the stick in one-run games. This was a game that Julius Thomas started and pitched really well. In the beginning, you could tell it was going to be a pitchers’ duel.
“I’m so happy for my boys, they deserve a victory like this. This one was a big one, we know that’s a good team.”
Paul Carpenter’s lead was shortened to just one game over second-place Martella’s Pharmacy heading into the nightcap Monday.
“We’re playing very, very soft. We’re playing terrible baseball no matter which way you shake it,” Paul Carpenter assistant coach Tayler Sheriff said.
“We’re not competing in the box, we’re flat. That’s what happens. I tip my hat to those guys, those guys are competing hard, they’re energetic.
“But there’s no reason that team should beat us ever. There’s no reason that team should beat us. We’re flat here, we’re not focused, we’re not locked in, we’re not competing hard enough and it’s just unacceptable.”
Laurel Auto’s Dallas Hite went 4-for-6 with two doubles. Layton, a Windber graduate who scored both runs for third-place LAG, collected two hits and a stolen base.
Vinny Rauso led Paul Carpenter with two knocks, including a double and the team’s only run scored.
Paul Carpenter took a 1-0 lead in the second. Rauso doubled and came home on Cameron Spencer’s RBI single to center.
Laurel Auto evened the game on Hite’s two-out RBI double in the fifth.
Despite not being 100 percent, Thomas fanned 11 batters and retired 13 of the last 14 hitters he faced to compile a 111-pitch count.
“Julius wasn’t feeling too good in the beginning,” Perez said. “He didn’t want to lose focus because his stomach wasn’t feeling well. He came in and said, ‘Coach, I feel like I can continue.’ Julius is a competitor.”
Visnesky finished with nine strikeouts in eight frames, totaling 106 pitches.
“Our pitchers have been pretty solid all year really,” Sheriff said. “They’re doing the job. They’re keeping us in games.”
Laurel Auto right-hander Brenden Lavely, a Bishop McCort graduate, came on in relief and tossed four shutout frames to earn the victory.
Hite made an impactful catch in the 11th inning. The center fielder broke deep on a shot hit by Ben Maudie.
With the wind blowing in, Hite overran the ball but stopped in his tracks, catching it while lying on the turf.
“He saved the game, because they would have went ahead,” Perez said.
Paul Carpenter right-hander Aaron Blake threw up three zeroes, but allowed two hits after the first two batters were retired in the bottom of the 12th. After Hite doubled to put runners at second and third, Corey Fogle was called on to put out the fire for Paul Carpenter. With the count going full, Shaffer stayed on a slider to find a hole through the left side of the infield.
“I wasn’t too sure how they were going to attack me, because I know Jake (Swank) was right behind me,” Shaffer said. “They didn’t have much to risk there because they had the base open at first base. I figured they wouldn’t be afraid to come at me with an off-speed pitch like a slider. That’s what he did, he ended up throwing me a slider. Fortunately I was on time for it and found a hole.”
With runs scarce, both offenses felt the pressure of coming through with a run.
“You get late in the game like that, everything is under a microscope. The smallest mistake can mean the game,” Shaffer said. “It was a now or never type situation.”
Laurel Auto Group left eight runners on base, while Paul Carpenter stranded seven.