SOMERSET - Tussey Mountain High School's first trip to the District 5 baseball finals in nine years left Titans coach Rob Reed channeling a legendary announcer of the sport.
"If 'ifs' and 'buts' are candy and nuts, everyday's Christmas,'' Reed said. "That's what Harry Carey said.''
Still, Reed couldn't wonder what might have been had the Titans, like Class A championship game opponent Salisbury-Elk Lick, gotten their semifinal game in last week instead of having to face rival and five-time defending champion Northern Bedford on Tuesday, cutting into his team's recovering time and making ace Elliott Chamberlain unavailable to pitch in the final.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Nate Pembrooke (right) consoles teammate Mitchell Rickabaugh after the loss.
Instead, the Elks sent 10 batters to the plate in both the third and fourth innings, scoring 10 times, as they brought their program its first district title ever while stopping Tussey from capturing its first in 25 years, 11-6, at Somerset Area High School Stadium on Thursday.
Tussey, which lost to Meyersdale in its last district championship game appearance in 2002, ended the season 16-4.
"It was a very good season. We did very well,'' said Tussey's IUP-bound slugging center fielder, Jordan DeLuca, who crushed a home run in the third inning to give his team a 2-0 lead and reached base three times. "It was an honor [to be here]. We practiced hard, and I think we deserved it. We put everything into our practices. I'm glad to get past Northern, and it was nice to be in the championship game. That was one of our goals, to be here.
"We had two bad innings. That's baseball.''
Take those away, and Tussey outscored the Elks, 5-1. But, like DeLuca and Reed said, that's not how it works.
"We knew Tussey was a great team, because we had lost to Northern Bedford in the past two playoffs,'' diminutive Elk winning pitcher Alex Beiler, who helped his own cause with three hits, three runs and two stolen bases, said. "It was awesome just to know we had a chance, and, with the group of guys we've had together from when we were young coming up, we knew that we had the talent if we played to our ability. I think we showed that with the way we played today.''
Tussey had a 2-0 lead following DeLuca's solo shot to right in the third inning, and Titans starting pitcher Jordan Swope cruised in his first time through the Salisbury lineup, surrendering just one hit.
However, things got much better for the Elks the second time around, and the third. Leadoff hitter Brandon Miller opened the third inning with a double, and the next batter, Cody Dice, scored him with a single. After an out, Ryan Vogt, Geoff Garlitz and Steve Yoder stroked consecutive singles before Nathan Hutzel walked - Tussey's lead had evaporated even before Mike Miller provided the exclamation point with a two-run single.
"All year long, we've responded well when we've gotten down,'' Salisbury coach Marty Kemp said. "We kind of have the mentality of not giving up. We know we can score runs. It's just a matter of time.''
Dice led off the next inning with a double, and two Titan errors paved the way for three unearned runs, as Salisbury (18-2) scored five more times to make it 10-2.
Presley Swope replaced starting pitcher Jordan Swope five batters into the fourth inning. The Titans were short on pitching because they had to play this week as a result of their semifinal game being rescheduled from Friday to Tuesday due to the weather.
"I guess it doesn't seem fair, but that's baseball. They got to have everybody rested and ready to go, and it put us back,'' Reed said. "I thought we bounced back. Early we played well, but we just had two innings in the middle of the game where things kind of unraveled and snowballed. By the time we got our feet under us, it was late. We'd have liked to have all our pitchers ready to go, but it is what it is.''
Tussey scored twice in the fifth and twice in the sixth, but the Titans left six runners on base over the last three innings. Vogt came on in relief to snuff out Tussey's last hopes, fanning five in the last two innings.
Presley Swope had three hits and scored three runs, while Jordan Swope had two hits and two RBIs. The Swopes sandwiched Chamberlain and DeLuca to form a potent top of the order for Tussey.
Chamberlain's RBI single in the seventh allowed him to finish his career on a 40-game hit streak, and he and DeLuca each just missed the 100-hit mark. They'll graduate, along with fellow starters Jordan Swope, Dylan Fields, Kyle Sheeder and Mitchell Rickabaugh.
"You've got to keep working. For the young guys, it's the challenge. That's a great group of seniors,'' Reed said. "We battled right up to the end.''
Game notes: The game was played in Somerset when the original site of Shanksville-Stonycreek High School was unavailable later in the day because of that school's graduation. ... Salisbury will play the District 3 runner-up, Lancaster Country Day, on Monday in the first round of interdistricts. ... Each team left 10 runners on base.
TUSSEY MOUNTAIN (6): P. Swope 2b-p 433, Chamberlain ss 401, DeLuca cf 221, J. Swope p-ss 402, Rickabaugh 401, Sheeder lf-pr 300, Wilson ph 101, Fields 3b 400, Brumbaugh c 300, Corbin cr 000, Runk rf 211. Totals-31-6-10
SALISBURY-ELK LICK (11): B. Miller c 311, Dice 3b 512, Beiler p-ss 533, Vogt ss-p 221, Garlitz cf 321, Yoder lf 422, Hutzel 1b 201, Menges pr 000, Brown dh 300, Beauford rf 000, M. Miller 2b 401. Totals-31-11-12.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Tussey Mountain101 022 0- 6 10 2
Salisbury-Elk Lick005 510 X-11 12 1
E-Vogt, Sheeder, Rickabaugh. DP-Salisbury-Elk Lick. LOB-Tussey Mountain 10, Salisbury-Elk Lick 10. 2B-P. Swope, B. Miller, Dice. HR-DeLuca. RBI-J. Swope 2, DeLuca, Dice, Vogt, Hutzel 2, M. Miller 2, Yoder, B. Miller, Rickbaugh, Chamberlain. SF-B. Miller. SB-Beiler 2. PO-Rickabaugh.
Tussey Mountain: J. Shope (L)-3 IP, 8 H, 10 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO; P. Swope-3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO.
Salisbury-Elk Lick: Beiler (W)-5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO; Vogt (Sv)-2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO.
J. Shope pitched to five batters in the fourth inning.
HBP-By J. Shope (Brown). WP-J. Shope, Beiler, P. Swope, Vogt.
Team records: Tussey Mountain (16-4); Salisbury-Elk Lick (18-2).
Umpires: Mike Zimmerman (plate), Joe Thompson (first), Bruce Holsopple (second), Jim Droz (third).