The Curve Classic usually marks the time when the Central Scarlet Dragon baseball team begins to start to put things together.
Huntingdon is hoping to borrow a page out of the book of its Mountain League rival.
Previously winless and only batting .256 as a team, the Bearcats pounded out nine hits, including a solo homer by Nate Negri and a two-run triple from Josh Bafia, and scored four runs in the third inning to move into today's tournament semifinals at Central's expense, 7-2, Friday afternoon at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Huntingdon’s Ryan Jadlocki scores from third base on a wild pitch by Central pitcher Mike Mock (right) during the Bearcats’ 7-2 win on Friday. Huntingdon will face Altoona in the semifinals today.
Bafia and Cook each had two hits, as did Tanner Cook, who doubled and singled. That was more than enough offense to support Huntingdon right-hander Scott Alleman's impressive pitching; he held Central to four hits while striking out eight and only walking one.
"We got the monkey off our backs, so to speak,'' Huntingdon coach Brian Pelka said after the Bearcats improved to 1-7 overall and 1-3 in the Allegheny Division of the Mountain League. "The thing about it is we've been close more than once this year going into the last at-bats. Today we found a way to win. It feels good, especially in this venue, in front of our fans, in a great ballpark like this. Hopefully this is something we can build on.''
Huntingdon actually led in six of its seven losses. Instead of knuckling under, though, the Bearcats came out ready to play in the Curve Classic, buoyed by the perseverance of nine seniors.
"We have good leadership from our seniors, just staying at it one game at a time, one inning at a time and seeing how we can do it. Our team in general had good approaches [at the plate], and everything was going good,'' said Negri, who scored three times.
It was important to keep that perspective, because things didn't start off very well: Central leadoff batter Austin Cunningham reached on a two-base error to start the game, stole second and scored on another throwing error.
After Huntingdon tied it up in the bottom of the first, the Scarlet Dragons (4-5, 2-2) regained the lead when Kasy Hamm singled to drive in Cunningham in the third. That, however, was it for the Central scoring.
"This league's outstanding. Huntingdon hadn't won a game, but they have some really talented kids. I thought their pitcher did a nice job,'' Central coach A.J. Hoenstine said. "By the same token, we have to put the ball in play. We're better than that, and the kids know what they have to do. They have to sacrifice themselves and put the ball in play for us to be successful.''
After Hamm's single, Alleman faced just three hitters more than the minimum the rest of the way. The only walk he surrendered was to the game's next-to-last batter.
"I don't care who I'm pitching against, I'm going to give it my all. Even if you're Barry Bonds, I'm going to pitch at you. You've got to go hard. My fastball was working well for me,'' Alleman said. "I just approached it like it was nothing-nothing and went out and did my job.''
Alleman's teammates made it pay off for him in the bottom of the third. Cook smacked a one-out double and scored on Negri's single. Three batters later, Bafia, who'd been hitting .235, smashed a Mike Mock pitch into the left-field corner for a triple that plated Negri and courtesy runner Ryan Jadlocki. Jordan Weller then singled in Bafia for a 5-2 Huntingdon lead.
"Lately, I've been struggling at the plate. I'd been batting second, and they moved me back to fifth. After I swung and missed at the first pitch in my first at-bat, I had too many mechanical things going through my head. I just started relaxing and hitting like I know I can,'' Bafia said. "I was just hoping [the triple] would stay fair and I got on my horse. That's one of the best moments of my career.''
Negri added his own memory and an insurance run in the fifth by belting a 2-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers.
"It's crazy for real,'' Negri said. "I thought I popped up to the left fielder, but it just kept going. I just stared at it as I was running to second.''
After its long losing streak, Huntingdon will try to string together some wins when it meets two-time defending champion Altoona, an 5-4 winner over Latrobe in the opening round, today at 5:30 p.m. Central faces Latrobe in the 12:30 consy.
"It feels amazing to get our first win,'' Alleman said. "To win on the Curve's field, it's something. I wish this was our home field.''
CENTRAL (2): Cunningham ss 411, L. Stern 2b 300, Hamm c 301, Vollkommer cr 000, Moore cf 301, Kreider 3b 300, Mock p 200, Nicewonger ph 100, Ebersole 1b 200, Croft ph 100, Negley lf 100, Slick ph 100, J. Stern ph 100, Slagenweit rf 200, Hoenstine ph 000. Totals - 27-2-4.
HUNTINGDON (7): Cook cf 412, Negri ss 222, Kyper dh 301, Long c 000, Alleman p 200, Jadlocki cr-pr 020, Bafia lf-3b 312, Weller 1b 201, Kifer 3b 200, Claar ph 100, Shope rf 300, Foster 2b 301. Totals - 25-7-9.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Central101 000 0-2 4 0
Huntingdon104 011 X-7 9 4
E-Negri, Long, Kifer, Foster. DP-Central, Huntingdon. LOB-Central 2, Huntingdon 3. 2B-Cook, Moore. 3B-Bafia. HR-Negri. RBI-Kyper, Hamm, Negri 2, Bafia 2, Weller. SB-Cunningham, Negri, Jadlocki 2, Foster. CS-. PO-Cook (by Mock).
Central: Mock (L)-6 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO.
Huntingdon: Alleman (W)-7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO.
HBP-By Mock (Negri). WP-Alleman, Mock 2. PB-Hamm 2.
Umpires: Steve Oakes (plate), Joe Thompson (bases).
Team records: Central (4-5; 2-2 Mountain League Allegheny Division); Huntingdon (1-7; 1-3 Mountain League Allegheny Division).