Cody Henderson swung at a 3-1 pitch to lead off the game, and he heard about it when he got back to the dugout.
"After that, [Coach Tom Smith] was bagging on me to be patient. He just kept pounding it into my brain. He just kept telling me to be patient and work the count,'' said Henderson, who flew out to right field. "That's something he usually emphasizes. When you're patient, good things happen.''
Henderson and the Altoona Area High School Mountain Lion baseball team took Smith's advice and found their path to another Altoona Curve Classic championship to be, quite literally, a walk in the park.
Mirror photo by Elizabeth Findley
Altoona’s Jordan Sneed gets back to first as Hollidaysburg’s Ian Ford makes the catch.
The Lions drew 14 walks - four by Henderson - in posting a 14-6 win against Hollidaysburg in a battle of unbeatens in the tournament final Sunday afternoon at Blair County Ballpark.
"That was the game plan: To be patient. We weren't in the first inning, but, after the first inning, we got back to making them throw a lot of pitches,'' Smith said.
It was the second year in a row Altoona has won the Curve Classic and the fifth time in the event's nine-year history.
"It's big,'' Henderson said. "Everyone wanted us to win it back to back, and it's our hometown. It should be our tournament.''
That wasn't a certainty until Altoona (4-0) scored 11 runs in the last four innings. Hollidaysburg (3-1) held a 4-3 lead after three.
However, when Altoona scored twice in the top of the third, things began to unravel for the Golden Tigers. The Lions had five hits in that inning, chasing Hollidaysburg starting pitcher Corey Barr.
After that, a merry-go-round of Lion baserunners forced a revolving door of Hollidaysburg pitchers. Tiger coach Jon Szynal made four changes on the mound, but Altoona pulled away despite only getting four hits over the last four innings.
"We found out some things about some guys that can help us on the mound, and we found out about some guys who maybe are a year or so away from helping us on the mound in a big game like that,'' Szynal said. "We got some good experience against a very good team, but, anytime you walk 13 or 14 batters, you aren't going to beat a team like Altoona.''
Tiger pitchers did get the ball around the plate to the one batter they probably should have avoided - junior Lion catcher Anthony Lombardo.
Lombardo, who knocked in five runs in a game last week and belted a three-run homer in the Mountain Lions' 5-1 win over Central in the semifinals Sunday morning, went 3-for-3 in the championship game, doubling and driving in three runs. He also walked twice.
"I got a lot of good pitches to hit,'' Lombardo said. "I just saw the ball pretty well and was able to hit it solid a couple of times.''
Not the known commodity like teammates Christian Helsel and Jordan Sneed were coming into the season, Lombardo was named the tournament's most valuable player. He was 5-for-8 in Altoona's three games with eight RBIs.
"I just wanted to try to hit the ball hard somewhere,'' Lombardo said. "It feels great [to be the MVP]. I'm just trying to win. This is my first year starting.''
"He's been smashing the ball,'' Henderson said of Lombardo. "He's been crushing it since the beginning of the year.''
Trevor Bush also had three hits in the championship game, driving in two runs, while Sneed was 2-for-5 with two RBIs.
Brett Hileman and Damian Lascoli came up with two hits each for the Tigers. Hollidaysburg piled up 14 hits against Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic in the semifinals, advancing in five innings with a 15-2 victory. Barr homered it that game, and Dane Scallen went 3-for-3.
"We thought we could probably get to the championship,'' Szynal said. "And, we thought with a couple of the arms we threw early in today's game, we could give them a run. But, if your starter doesn't make it through the third inning, that makes it tough on the rest of your guys, and then they had a couple of key hits between all those walks.''
Smith felt the reason for Mountain Lions' dominance in the Curve Classic at least was due in part to the fact that Altoona usually is the largest school in the tournament, a distinct advantage when you are playing three games in a weekend with all the pitching restrictions.
Altoona had plenty of pitching. Craig McCloskey threw a no-hitter against Bishop Walsh on Saturday, and Helsel, a junior committed to the University of Mississippi, struck out 13 vs. Central. When Matt McDonald wasn't able to make it through the third inning in the finals, Matt Frederick came in to scatter four hits over 4 innings.
"We have our top four pitchers returning from last year, so that helps,'' Smith said. "This year, we have some depth in pitching, and it paid off, because we were able to bring one of our starters in when one of our other starter was struggling, and Matt Frederick did a nice job for us.''
The Lions became just the second team to win the tournament in back-to-back years. Altoona also turned that trick in 2006 and 2007.
"It think we look at it,'' Lombardo said, "as if it's ours to win.''
Game notes: Altoona turned three double plays, including one with the bases loaded to end the game. ... Hollidaysburg won't have long to wait to try to return the favor to Altoona; The Tigers host the Lions on Thursday. ... Hollidaysburg is back in action today at home vs. St. Marys before entertaining State College on Wednesday. ... Altoona travels to State College on Tuesday and Chambersburg on Friday. ... In the late consolation game from Saturday, Korry Cowher and Jake Belinda drove in three runs apiece, and Seth Welch pitched six innings, allowing one run and fanning eight as Tyrone downed Bishop Walsh, 8-4.
ALTOONA (14): Henderson 2b 230, Helsel ss 411, Sneed 1b 522, Lombardo c 303, Koch cr 030, Steele rf 301, Bush lf 513, Clancy 3b 421, McDonald p 000, Frederick dh-p 300, Sinisi cr 000, Oswalt cf 110, Green ph-cf 010. Totals - 30-14-11.
HOLLIDAYSBURG (6): Hileman 2b 322, Lascoli c 412, Storm cr-p 101, Pope lf-ss-rf 311, Barr p-lf 300, Gallagher cf 000, Barton dh 200, Sheetz ph 101, Ford 1b 211, Sell ph 000, Scallen rf 100, Glass ph 000, Baum ss 200, Budd p 100, Burger 3b 411. Totals - 27-6-7.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Altoona102 330 4-14 11 2
Hollidaysburg202 110 0- 6 7 4
E-Lascoli, McDonald, Pope, Scallen, Helsel, Storm. LOB-Altoona 10, Hollidaysburg 7. DP-Altoona 3. 2B-Hileman, Lombardo. RBI-Lombardo 3, Pope, Bush 2, Clancy, Lascoli, Helsel, Steele, Baum, Henderson, Sneed 2. SAC-Frederick, Steele. SF-Baum. CS-Steele.
Altoona: McDonald-2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 SO, 4 BB; Frederick (W)-4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 SO, 3 BB.
Hollidaysburg: Barr-2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 SO, 2 BB; Budd (L)-2 IP, 2 H, 6 R , 4 ER, 0 SO, 4 BB; Scallen- IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 SO, 3 BB; Storm- IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 SO, 3 BB; Hileman-1 IP, 1 H, 5 R 1 ER, 1 SO, 2 BB.
HBP-By Frederick (Scallen), by Hileman (Green, Sneed). WP-Frederick 2.
Records: Altoona (4-0); Hollidaysburg (3-1).
Umpires: Dave Adams (plate), Steve Oakes (first), Jim Klausman (third).
ALTOONA 5, CENTRAL 1
CENTRAL (1): Schon rf 301, Cunningham ss 301, Runk cf 211, Baird 1b 200, Hamm c-p 200, Smith ph 000, Croft p 000, Blattenberger dh 300, Longenecker p 000, Lewis p 000, Nicewonger c 000, C. Kreider 3b 300, Johnson 3b 000, Knisely 2b 200, A. Kreider lf 200. Totals - 22-1-3.
ALTOONA (5): Henderson 2b 300, Douglas 2b 000, Helsel p 322, Sneed 1b 210, Watson c 000, Lombardo dh 312, Steele cf 300, McDonald rf 200, Bush lf 100, Koch lf 100, Clancy 3b 100, Sinisi 3b 000, Frederick ss 200. Totals - 22-5-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Central000 100 0-1 3 2
Altoona103 100 X-5 5 1
E-Baird, C. Kreider, Watson. LOB-Central 2, Altoona 4. 2B-Helsel. 3B-Bush. HR-Lombardo. RBI-Lombardo 4, Clancy. SF-Clancy. SB-Runk, Baird.
Central: Longenecker (L)-3 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 1 SO, 1 BB; Lewis-1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 SO, 0 BB; Hamm-1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 SO, 0 BB; Croft-1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 SO, 2 BB.
Altoona: Helsel (W)- 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 13 SO, 2 BB.
Records: Central (3-2); Altoona (3-0).
Umpires: Don McClure, Gene Decker.
HOLLIDAYSBURG 15, BISHOP GUILFOYLE 2
HOLLIDAYSBURG (15): Hileman 2b 422, Lascoli c 300, Baum cr 110, Pope ss 322, Barr lf 412, Glass p 301, Storm cr 010, Ford 1b 321, Gallagher cf 000, Barton dh 421, Scallen rf 333, Sell rf 000, Burger 3b 312. Totals - 31-15-14.
BISHOP GUILFOYLE (2): Keller 2b 110, Sweeney ph 100, Adams cf 312, Pugh 1b 201, Beard 3b 300, Sanders p-lf 201, Stewart cr 000, Hoover rf 100, Wolf ss 200, Nardelli lf 000, Drenning p 000, Wolfe p 000, Rossman dh 100, Krol c 200. Totals - 18-2-4.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Hollidaysburg141 09X X-15 14 1
Bishop Guilfoyle002 00X X- 2 4 2
E-Scallen, Pugh, Wolf. LOB-Hollidaysburg 8, Bishop Guilfoyle 5. 2B-Hileman, Barr. HR-Barr. RBI-Hileman 2, Lascoli, Pope 2, Barr 3, Scallen, Burger 4, Pugh. SF-Hileman. SB-Pope 2, Ford, Scallen.
Hollidaysburg: Glass (W)-5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 6 SO, 4 BB.
Bishop Guilfoyle: Sanders (L)-3 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 SO, 5 BB; Drenning-1 IP, 9 H , 9 R, 7 ER, 1 SO, 1 BB; Wolfe- IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 SO, 0 BB.
Records: Hollidaysburg (3-0); Bishop Guilfoyle (2-2).
Umpires: Mike Bryja, Gene Decker.
TYRONE 8, BISHOP WALSH 4
BISHOP WALSH (4): Mathews cf 311, Wilson ss-p 200, Warner ph 010, Myers p-ss 300, Hendershot rf 200, Amesqua 3b 110, Kimble 3b 201, McGill pr 000, Whetzel c 101, Russell cr-cf 101, Miller ph 100, B. Murray 1b 200, A. Murray 1b 200, Zook lf 2b 100, Conroy 2b 000, Howell lf 100, Reed lf 101, Mazzeo lf 010. Totals - 25-4-5.
TYRONE (8): Cowher ss 422, Belinda 3b 413, Kimberling 1b 400, Welch p 000, Jackson p 000, Hample p 000, Shaffer dh 311, Garbinsky pr 000, Pannebaker cf 401, Nevling-Ray c 200, Faretta 2b 221, Murray rf 210, Wagner lf 110. Totals -26-8-8.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Bishop Walsh000 001 3-4 5 2
Tyrone200 303 X-8 8 3
E-Wilson, B. Murray, Pannebaker, Belinda, Faretta. 2B-Pannebaker, Faretta. RBI-Myers, Kimble, Russell, Cowher 3, Belinda 3, Wagner. WP-Welch. LP-Myers. SO-Myers 4, Wilson 2, Kimble 2, Welch 8, Hample 1. BB-Myers 1, Wilson 3, Kimble 2, Welch 3, Jackson 4.
Records: Tyrone (1-4).