JOHNSTOWN - It's been said the third out is the hardest to get, especially when it slips through your fingers.
Portage pitcher Luke Dividock struck out Bishop McCort's Brad Coleman for what would've been the final out of the third inning of Thursday's District 6 Class A playoff game. However, the low-and-away pitch eluded catcher Brandon Vocco, and skipped toward the Mustangs' dugout at Point Stadium.
Coleman reached base safely, and was the first of two runs to score later that inning, extending the Crimson Crushers' lead from just one run, to 3-0.
"That's the name of the game," said Portage coach Larry McCabe. "That's baseball. Those things happen. They capitalized on some things we just didn't finish."
Despite a late Mustangs push, McCort won, 6-3, and advanced to their third-straight District 6 Class A title game.
Just two of Dividock's six runs allowed were earned, and his strikeout of Coleman was his only one all game. Crushers starter Nate Neiderhiser had no earned runs, struck out 11 batters, while only walking one. Justin Vardian closed the game in the seventh inning, striking out two.
"At the beginning of the game, my fastball-changeup combination was working for me," Neiderhiser said. "My changeup was there all night. Toward the end of the game, I started losing a little heat on my fastball, but coach did a great job calling the pitches, whatever he felt was best, and I ended up getting the outs."
The fifth-seeded Mustangs (13-7) scored all three runs in the sixth inning. Evan Price hit a two-run double to score C.W. Miller and Dividock, then scored on a passed ball.
"We showed we can compete, but we just waited too long to get some runs on the board," McCabe said. "I'm proud of our kids. We have a lot of character. This was a heck of a season, and these kids made a lot of sacrifices to get where they are."
Luke Williams led Bishop McCort offensively, finishing 2-for-2 with an RBI-double in the third, and a single and a run scored in the fifth. Neiderhiser was 1-for-1 with a double, a walk and two RBIs. Nemo Trexler went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
The top-seeded district- and state-defending champion Crimson Crushers (18-4) meet Claysburg-Kimmel in the district championship Thursday at Peoples Natural Gas Field. Claysburg defeated Conemaugh Valley, 10-7, in the other semifinal game Thursday.
"Everyone's excited," Neiderhiser said. "Personally, it's my third-straight trip. We're all excited to go put another banner in the school gymnasium."
PORTAGE (3): Dividock p 310, Price ss 311, Kerch 301, Vocco 300, Baker 300, Warner 300, Bryja 300, Madigan 301, Miller 211. Totals - 26-3-4.
BISHOP MCCORT (6): Trexler cf 412, Coleman 2b411, Wade pr 010, N. Neiderhiser p 301, Price cr 020, Williams 1b 312, E. Neiderhiser 3b 301, Leech pr 000, Tomkowski lf 300, Vardian ss 301, Rock c 300, Adams cf 300. Totals - 29-6-8.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Portage000 003 0 - 3 4 5
Bishop McCort102 030 X - 6 8 1
E-Price 3, Vocco, Dividock, Vardian. DP-none. LOB-Portage 2, Bishop McCort 4. 2B-Madigan, Price, Trexler, Coleman, N. Neiderhiser, Williams. RBI-Price 2, N. Neiderhiser 2, Williams, E. Neiderhiser. SB-Madigan.
Portage: Dividock (L)-7 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO.
Bishop McCort: N. Neiderhiser (W)-6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 SO; Vardian-1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO.
Team records: Portage (13-7); Bishop McCort (18-4).
Umpires: Corey Theys, plate; Brent Dorofey, first; Tom Pattison, third.