Through six innings of Saturday's Curve Classic semifinal high school baseball game at Peoples Natural Gas Field, Altoona had just two hits - both triples.
Maybe it was an omen.
The Mountain Lions will play for their third straight Curve Classic title after an excellent performance on the mound from starter Alex Lytle, who fired a complete-game shutout and allowed just one hit, in Altoona's 5-0 victory over Huntingdon.
The title game will feature the Mountain Lions and Hollidaysburg, a 10-0 winner over Bishop Guilfoyle in the other semifinal, at 1 p.m. today.
"Alex threw a great game," Altoona manager Tom Smith said. "He went out there and threw strikes. He answered some questions tonight. He proved that he can go out there and throw for us every week."
With the victory, Altoona remained unbeaten at 5-0. Huntingdon slipped to 1-8 but hardly looked like a team with many problems on the mound during its two days in the tournament.
After getting a complete-game victory with Scott Alleman on the mound a day earlier, the Bearcats got a solid outing from freshman Hunter Price.
Price allowed just two hits and two runs in six innings but had to leave just before the seventh inning began after throwing 118 pitches. Three relief pitchers combined to give up three walks, two hits and two runs in the seventh inning to set the final score.
"It was nip and tuck the whole way," Huntingdon manager Brian Pelka said. "We had to take Hunter out after he threw that many pitches. We thought it was the right move to make, but unfortunately our bullpen kind of faltered a little."
The game was nearly a 0-0 tie headed into the final inning.
With two outs in the third inning and runners on first and second, Altoona's Dylan Conrad hit a sinking liner toward right field. Nathan Shope made a valiant diving attempt and nearly came up with the ball, but it skidded past him and turned into a two-run triple.
"A couple inches was the difference between us being up and it being scoreless into the seventh," Smith said. "For a ninth grader, [Price] did a super job. He kept them in the ballgame. He really frustrated our hitters."
Conrad's triple was all Lytle needed.
The lanky right-handed pitcher allowed only an infield single to Nate Negri in the first inning and a walk to Alleman in the fourth.
"My fastball was working really well today," Lytle said. "I was just playing my game and felt good out there. We want to win this thing and stay undefeated as long as we can."
Anthony Lombardo made Lytle's job in the bottom of the seventh inning easier with a two-run double in the final inning. Lombardo scored a few pitches later on a wild pitch.
"Our kids love coming out here in this tournament," Smith said. "I think since we're the local team, that our kids take it more to heart and hopefully we can find a way to make it three in a row."
For Huntingdon, the game marked yet another in a series of close losses this season, but Pelka said good things came out of the team's trip to the Curve Classic.
"[Alleman and Price] can make a really good one-two punch," Pelka said. "I think there are one or two other guys who are kind of nursing some sore arms that we anticipated being in our rotation, but we're going with what we've got and we're very encouraged by the performances."
Altoona has already beaten Hollidaysburg, its championship game opponent, this season. The Mountain Lions topped the Golden Tigers, 9-8, in their second game of the year.
"Any time two rivals meet up, it's an interesting game," Smith said. "They are a good team that is well coached. We think we have a good team, so I would expect a well-played game."
Game notes: Huntingdon's Josh Bafia had an interesting day at Peoples Natural Gas Field Saturday. The senior played left field, pitched, played third base and finished at first base. While he was in left, he made a running attempt on a foul ball in the corner and flipped over the railing into the bullpen in the corner of the stadium. After a short delay in the game, Bafia shook it off and remained in left. Altoona will be going for its sixth Curve Classic title in the tournament's 10th year. Huntingdon won the title in 2004.
ALTOONA (5): Oswalt cf 311, Green lf 210, Helsel ss 210, Lytle p 000, Lombardo dh 411, Wyland 3b 311, Conrad c 201, Berardinelli cr 000, Sinisi 2b 200, Arnold ph 000, Baker 1b 200, T. Negri ph 100, Stayer rf 300, Chesney ph 100. Totals 24-5-4
HUNTINGDON (0): Cook cf 300, N. Negri ss-p-3b 301, Shope rf 000, Kyper dh 300, Alleman 3b-lf 200, Bafia lf-p-3b-1b 300, Foster 2b 200, Weller 1b-p 200, Long c 200, Price p 100, Jadlocki ph 100. Totals 22-0-1
Score by inning
Altoona002 000 3 5 4 0
Huntingdon000 000 0 0 1 0
2B-Lombardo. 3B-Conrad, Oswalt. RBI-Lombardo 2, Conrad 2. WP-Lytle. LP-Price. SO-Lytle 8, Price 3, Weller 1. BB-Lytle 1, Price 6, Bafia 2, N. Negri 2.
Umpires: Dave Gildea (HP), Larry Stitt (bases)
Records: Altoona (5-0); Huntingdon (1-8)