J.D. Green was looking for a first-pitch fastball and got it.
The Altoona outfielder ripped a one-out single to left field to score Trevor Arnold with the tie-breaking run in the bottom of the sixth inning and the Mountain Lions went on beat DuBois, 8-5, in a District 6 Class AAAA semifinal game Monday afternoon at Mansion Park.
"We're elated to move on [to the finals]," Altoona coach Tom Smith said. "That's our goal every year, and we haven't been there in a few years so we'll take it anyway we can."
Altoona will meet the winner of today's Central Mountain-Mifflin County semi for the 6-AAAA championship on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The Lions defeated DuBois twice during the regular-season and, when they put four runs on the scoreboard in the first inning yesterday, things looked good for the maroon and white.
However, DuBois starter Ian Yount settled down, limited Altoona to one hit over the next four innings and the Beavers rallied to take a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the sixth.
Altoona reliever Alec Lytle and catcher Anthony Lombardo were successful in thwarting a suicide squeeze by DuBois that could have given the Beavers a two-run advantage in the fifth. With the bases loaded and only one out, John Georgino bunted through a Lytle pitch and Lombardo ran down the base runner before he could get back to third. Lytle then retired Georgino on a comebacker to end the inning.
"We held them on that squeeze attempt which would have been a nice insurance run for them," Smith said.
Trailing 5-4, the Lions rallied for four in the sixth. With one out, Dylan Oswalt doubled and Arnold singled. Pinch batter Jake Chesney worked a walk to load the bases and that set the stage for Christian Helsel, one of the Lions' top hitters.
Helsel battled through an 11-pitch at-bat, finally drawing a walk to force Oswalt home with the tying run.
"I felt like the guys on the team wanted me in that situation," Helsel said. "I had confidence and I knew I wasn't going to strike out. That just wasn't going to happen.
"I stayed locked in and focused, fouled off some good pitches and ended up working the walk."
The free passed tied the game at 5-all and set the stage for Green's single that put Altoona on top.
"I needed to get the job done," Green said. "I was thinking first-pitch fastball and that's what it was.
"Going to the finals feels real good," Green continued. "I'm a senior, this is my first time to get there, and I hope we win it."
Smith noted the entire lineup had a hand in the four-run winning rally.
"First-pitch RBI situation," Smith said of Green, "and he laced one to left field to give us the lead. But, even before that we had a lot of clutch at-bats from some of the guys in the lower part of the order. The 7, 8, 9 guys all got on base, and that was huge. We were able to turn the order and the top came through, too."
DuBois didn't pack it in, though, loading the bases with one out on an error, walk and single.
Helsel relieved Lytle and induced Georgino into a comebacker that Helsel turned into a 1-6-3 double play to end the game. Helsel looked home after fielding the grounder, but wheeled and fired to shortstop Jaret Berardinelli who then tossed to first baseman Colby Fink, who made a nice scoop for the final out.
"We could have packed it in early but we didn't," DuBois coach Todd Stiner said. "Then we fought and scrapped to get back in it but we ran out of steam on the mound.
"Even in the seventh inning, we had a chance," Stiner said, "but give credit to Altoona. They did a nice job. They had our number this year, beating us three times."
DuBOIS (5): Brown cf 300, McKee 2b 200, Heckathorne c 400, Bontempo lf 411, Bush 1b 312, Baummer pr 010, Sleigh rf 201, Liddle 3b 301, Yount p 000, Georgino dh 300, Vizza cr 010, Read ss 312. Totals - 27-5-7.
ALTOONA (8): Helsel ss-p 220, Green lf 202, Fink 1b 311, Wyland p-3b 402, Negri cr 010, Lombardo c 200, Berardinelli cr-ss 000, Sinisi 2b 310, Oswalt cf 312, Foose 3b 000, Arnold dh 211, Stayer rf 210, Chesney ph 000, Lytle p 000. Totals - 23-8-8.
SCORE BY INNINGS
DuBois021 110 0-5 7 2
Altoona400 004 X-8 9 3
E-Helsel 2, Foose, Heckathorne, Read. 2B-Bush, Oswalt. 3B-Sleigh, Oswalt. RBI-Helsel, Green, Fink 2, Wyland, Sinisi, Oswalt, Bontempo, Sleigh 2, Liddle.
Altoona IP H R ER SO BB
Wyland 4.1 6 5 2 5 4
Lytle (W) 2 0 0 0 1 2
Helsel (Sv) .2 1 0 0 0 0
DuBois IP H R ER SO BB
Yount (L) 5.1 8 8 4 3 6
Walker .2 1 0 0 1 0
Umpires - Larry Stitt (plate), Joe Bidoli, Steve Oakes (bases).
Records: Altoona (14-5); DuBois (12-8)