SOMERSET - Somerset wasn't able to get a hit off Huntingdon hurler Josh Foster, but still managed to come away with a 1-0 victory over the Bearcats in the District 6 Class AAA baseball semfinals on Thursday.
The Golden Eagles' lone run was scored in the bottom of the sixth inning by Foster's pitching counterpart, Ian Stiffler, who also turned in a brilliant effort on the mound. And the manner in which the run was scored wasn't without controversy.
Stiffler was on third base after leading off the inning with a walk. He got caught in a pickoff attempt, but kept himself alive in a rundown and eventually scored, alluding the tag at home.
Of course, each team had its own perspective on the play, and Huntingdon head coach George Zanic wasn't shy about how he felt when talking to reporters after the game.
"I told the team that they battled and had a great season," Zanic said. "That kid over there [Stiffler] is one of the best they'll ever see. He's going to be getting paid to pitch next year. You can't take anything away from Somerset. They have a great ball club.
"Our kids played well, but let's face it, we also got hosed. Foster tagged that kid. They called balk from the other bench. That runner should have been out and we should still be playing and that's disappointing. Josh Foster throws a no-hitter. We knew the squeeze was coming and we put the pick on. We picked him off, got the guy in a rundown and tagged him out and the ump calls him safe.
"That's beyond our control, but you know what, [Stiffler] is so good, we may have played nine or 10 innings and not scored a run."
Somerset coach Steve Costea saw it differently from the Eagles' dugout.
"I saw a balk," Costea said. "Ian Stiffler was on third base. Ian broke a half millisecond too early, and when you break early, it gives the pitcher an opportunity to hang you out to dry. He hung Ian out to dry, but Ian's quick enough and fast enough to make it interesting and got around the tag and scored.
"Both coaches were going to argue. If he was out, I had a balk. If he scored, [Zanic] had him out of the base line or something else. That was close playoff baseball right there. Either way the head coach was going out on that one to voice his opinion."
Stiffler explained how he scored the run.
"We had the squeeze play on and I went a little too soon," he said. "I got in a rundown. ... [The tag] missed me completely. It wasn't even close."
The victory advanced top-seeded Somerset (17-4) to the District 6-AAA title game against No. 2 Hollidaysburg next Thursday at 4 p.m. at PNG Field in Altoona. The Eagles edged Hollidaysburg 6-5 in a nine-inning contest on April 22.
Stiffler threw a complete game with 13 strikeouts and one walk. He gave up only two hits - a pair of singles to Nate Gearhart.
"He was great," Costea said. "He came out and was dominating very early."
Foster had one strikeout and issued five walks.
"You have to give [Stiffler] credit, but you also have to give Josh Foster credit," Zanic said. "Somerset scored over 200 runs this year and he shut them out for 6 2/3 innings."
HUNTINGDON (0): Wagner 300, Claar 300, Cook 300, Weller 200, Gearhart 302, Fisher 200, Price 200, Foster 200, Stetchock 200. Totals - 22-0-2.
SOMERSET (1): Stiffler p 210, R. Dirienzo 2b 300, Hemminger 3b 200, Barron lf 300, Flyte cf 000, A. Dirienzo ss 200, Costea 1b 100, Nickelson dh 200, Stull c 200. Totals - 17-1-0.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Huntingdon000 000 0-0 2 2
Somerset000 001 X-1 0 1
LOB-Huntingdon 2, Somerset 6. E-Price, Hemminger. HBP-Costea. WP-Stiffler. LP-Foster. SO-Foster 1, Stiffler 13. BB-Foster 5, Stiffler 1.
Records: Huntingdon (9-11); Somerset (17-4).