Things didn't look good for pitcher Tyler Ferguson and Central in the top of the second inning Monday at Blair County Ballpark in the Scarlet Dragons' first-round PIAA Class AA baseball playoff game against Mohawk.
The Warriors had already scored a run in the first inning, Mohawk pitcher Daniel Mioni had just struck out three of the first four Central hitters he faced and Ferguson was facing a jam with runners on second and third with no outs.
Then something clicked.
Mirror photo by Elizabeth Franks
Central mobs Pat Schon after Schon scores one of the team’s four runs in the bottom of the third inning.
Mirror photo by Elizabeth Franks
Central’s Jared Baird scores past the tag of Mohawk’s Frank?Shaffer.
The senior left-hander struck out the next three batters, and Central scored four runs in the third inning en route to a 4-2 win that set up a matchup against Bedford, a 3-2 winner over Waynesburg, on Thursday in the second round.
"You can't get discouraged," Ferguson said. "You can't give up. You just have to bulldog your way through every inning. Once we got those four runs, I was perfectly fine the rest of the game."
For the next four innings, Ferguson nearly was perfect. He allowed just a hit, a walk and hit a batter while conserving the Scarlet Dragons' lead until he ran into trouble in the top of the seventh inning.
Ferguson walked pinch hitter Chris Barber to start the inning before Johnny Beatty grounded into a fielder's choice that eliminated Barber. An error and another hit by pitch loaded the bases with one out. Wyatt Montgomery hit a sacrifice fly to center, and Lucas Runk's throw to third allowed Mohawk to move the tying run to second base.
However, Ferguson, who was one of the top pitchers during Central's run to the state championship a year ago and the winning pitcher in the District 6 championship, got Kevin Martin to fly out to right and end the game.
"We were a hit away," said Mohawk coach Kevin Sapp, whose team had just three hits off Ferguson. "For a split second, when that last ball was in the air, I thought the right fielder lost it, but I think he was just calling it with his arms. We just didn't get that clutch hit."
The Scarlet Dragons had only five hits of their own, but two of them could definitely be classified as clutch.
Pat Schon led off the bottom of the third inning with a walk, stole second and third, and scored on Austin Cunningham's double to tie the game at one.
The steals came right after courtesy runner Adam Kreider was thrown out in front of a pair of walks in the second inning.
"We're going to be aggressive on the basepaths; I think people know that," Central coach A.J. Hoenstine said. "We're going to keep doing that. I think that's the first time Adam Kreider has been thrown out the whole year. He's a great baserunner, and something like that isn't going to make us stop running."
Central took the lead when Runk followed Cunningham's double with one of his own down the third-base line. Jared Baird tried to bunt Runk to third, but Martin, the Warriors' third baseman, looked Runk back to second and did not throw to first. A pitch later, Runk and Baird pulled off a double steal.
Kasy Hamm drove in Runk with a groundout to shortstop, and Baird was safe at home a batter later when Mohawk catcher Frankie Shaffer dropped Montgomery's throw home.
"It's such a relief to get this win," Ferguson said. "A little gap shot by that last batter, and this could have been a new game. It's great to be winning again in the state playoffs. I just want to get back to that big game."
MOHAWK (2): Beatty cf 421, Fava ss-2b 401, Mioni p-ss 200, Montgomery 1b-2b 301, Martin 3b 400, Penwell 1b-p 200, Shaffer c 200, DeSantis cr 000, Hartzell rf 200, Anthony lf-pr 200, Barber ph 000. Totals - 25-2-3.
CENTRAL (4): Schon rf 310, Cunningham ss 311, Runk cf 311, Baird 1b 311, Hamm c 301, A. Kreider cr 000, Forshey 2b 100, Smith pr 000, Knisely 2b 100, Longenecker 3b 300, Ferguson p 000, Blattenberger dh 200, Negley lf 301. Totals -25-4-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Mohawk100 000 1-2 3 2
Central004 000 X-4 5 3
E-Fava, Shaffer, Ferguson, Cunningham 2. 2B-Montgomery, Runk, Baird, Cunningham. RBI-Montgomery, Cunningham, Runk, Hamm. WP-Ferguson. LP-Mioni. SO-Ferguson 10, Mioni 8. BB-Ferguson 4, Mioni 3.
Umpires: Home-Gary Kost; 1B-Dale Shaw; 2B-Jay Siegel; 3B-Allen Fricke.
Records: Mohawk (13-8); Central (17-5).