PHILIPSBURG - The top of the seventh inning in the District 6 Class AA semifinal game between second-seeded Philipsburg-Osceola and third-seeded Central had more drama than a Survivor episode without those pesky commercials.
It began with P-O second baseman Mike Marcinko tagging Lucas Runk out at second base using the hidden ball trick, causing the Scarlet Dragons, losing 3-2, to blow a fuse, including coach A.J. Hoenstine, who argued with all three umpires for more than 5 minutes.
The Dragons tied the game two batters later, when relief pitcher Tyler Ferguson, batting for the first time in Luke Blattenberger's spot in the lineup, singled home courtesy runner Adam Kreider, who was 3-for-4. It was Ferguson's first hit of the season.
Photo for the Mirror by Chris Wechtenheiser
Central coach A.J. Hoenstine argues over the hidden ball trick that P-O used to get Lucas Runk out on?Thursday.
Then, the next batter, Mason Longenecker, who was 0-for-3 and facing a two-strike pitch from Parker Watson, slammed a home run over the left field fence. Longenecker's second homer of the season gave the Dragons a 5-3 lead that would hold up for the win.
"It felt great. I couldn't ask for anything more," Longenecker said. "Coach told me to swing as hard as I could and give it my all. He knows I can hit the ball that far. The home run was one of the best feelings of my life."
"This was big, especially after [the hidden ball trick]," Runk said. "Our guys got real fired up. It all came together for us, and it was awesome."
The Dragons, the defending state runners-up, will play in the district title game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Blair County Ballpark. They have to wait to see who they play because the other semifinal between Bald Eagle Area and Mount Union was tied, 1-1, in the ninth inning when it was suspended. The game will resume today.
The game actually started to get strange and dramatic in the bottom of the sixth with the score tied, 2-2. P-O had two outs, Cody Doran on third, Watson on first and Greg Belko, who was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts, up to bat.
Mounties coach Doug Sankey called for Watson to get into an intentional rundown between first and second in the hopes that Doran would score before Watson was tagged out. Watson got in the rundown, but the rundown throw to second base was thrown away, and Doran scored easily, and the Mounties were celebrating.
"We couldn't score," Sankey said. "I thought 'We gotta get a run here.' I waited until he had one strike on him and I thought 'We better do it now.' They're two of my better base runners."
Runk started the top of the seventh by walking and stealing his second base. Interestingly enough, Sankey didn't call for the hidden ball trick. Marcinko just did it.
"That was all Mike Marcinko," Sankey said. "Baseball instincts, he's one of the top [guys] I've ever coached."
As a result, Hoenstine argued with home plate umpire Gary Kost that Watson was on the mound when Runk was tagged. The rule states that the pitcher can't be on the pitching rubber when the trick is pulled off. During the argument, third base umpire ejected one of Central's coaches.
"I thought if the pitcher is on the mound and they try the hidden ball trick, [the pitcher] can't step on the dirt," Runk said. "He stepped on the dirt, I got my lead, the second baseman obviously had the ball and tagged me out. The umps made their call, and it is what it is."
"I'll take the blame for it," Hoenstine said. "I'm under the assumption that if the pitcher is on the dirt, they can't do that. The umpire said 'No, if he's on the rubber.' They did a good job. They're three quality umpires."
After Jared Baird flied out for the second out, Kasy Hamm, who was 3-for-4, singled to center, and Kreider stole second and scored on Ferguson's hit to right field.
"That was a good time to have his first hit," Hoenstine said.
Longenecker, batting seventh, then hit the home run, and he was mobbed at home plate by his teammates.
"Mason is either all or nothing," Hoenstine said. "The pitch was up in the zone, and he swings hard and was able to get it good."
CENTRAL (5): Schon rf 200, Cunningham ss 400, Runk cf 201, Baird p-1b 300, Hamm c 403, Kreider cr 020, Blattenberger 1b 300, Ferguson p 101, Long cr 010, Longenecker 3b 411, Forshey dh110, Smith pr 000, Knisely 2b 000, Negley lf 402. Totals - 28-5-8.
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (3): Smith c 311, Hayward 3b 301, Marcinko 2b 301, Bryan ss 300, Doran cf 120, Curtis rf 300, Belko 1b 300, Lee cr-p 000, Mills dh 200, Coval lf 000. Totals - 23-3-4.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Central010 100 3-5 8 2
Philipsburg-Osceola100 101 0-3 4 2
E-Baird, Blattenberger; Smith, Marcinko. 2B-Hamm; Marcinko. HR - Longenecker. RBI-Longenecker 2, Ferguson, Negley; Marcinko, Watson. SB-Runk 2, Kreider 2; Watson. SAC-Hayward. HBP-Baird (by Watson); Coval (by Ferguson). DP-Central; Philipsburg-Osceola. LOB-Central 9, Philipsburg-Osceola 5.
Central: Baird-4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO; Ferguson (W)-2 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO.
Philipsburg-Osceola: Watson (L)-6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 6 SO; Lee- IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO.
Records: Central (15-5); Philipsburg-Osceola (14-6).