Just one victory away from advancing to the NABF World Series, the Martin Oil baseball team couldn't have gotten off to a better start in Friday's Altoona Regional Tournament championship.
Finishing was the problem.
The Bellwood entry had the bases loaded with no outs in the first and third innings, but was only able to push one run across with those opportunities as it fell to Baltimore Diamond Pros, 4-2, at Mansion Park.
The two teams will face off again today at 11 a.m. at Vets Field, with the winner being named the NABF Regional Tournament champion of the double-elimination tournament.
"We left the bases loaded twice," Martin Oil coach Ron Mock said. "We couldn't get the hit we needed to bring guys in and it hurt us big time."
Haden DeGennaro, Trent Martin and Travis Baker each singled for Martin Oil to start the top of the first inning. Danny Beech grounded into a double play that scored DeGennaro, before Trenton Creppage struck out to halt the rally.
In the top of the third inning, Martin reached via error, Baker walked and Beech singled to once again load the bases with no outs.
Baltimore starter Conner Reynolds, who finished with nine strikeouts, was able to strike out the next three Martin Oil batters to escape the jam.
"We had a lot of good pitches from Conner Reynolds," Baltimore coach Joe Daddura said. "He limited the damage and was able to help get us out of some tough jams."
The Diamond Pros answered in their half of the first inning, when Reynolds scored on a single by first baseman Kyle Kershner to knot the game.
Baltimore was able to take the lead in the bottom of the third inning when Ron Farley hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field to score Reynolds.
It was able to add its final two runs in the fourth inning. With two outs Reynolds hit a sharp ground ball that second baseman Trent Martin couldn't handle, allowing Colin Gimblet to score. Tipton singled to bring in Sheridan Doan to give Baltimore two unearned runs and the lead, 4-1.
Martin Oil was able to threaten one last time in the fifth inning. Travis Baker walked to start the inning before Danny Beech drove him in with a triple to deep right-center field. Two strikeouts and a popout stranded Beech at third base during Martin Oil's last real opportunity.
Martin Oil left ten runners on base, including at least one in each of the first six innings.
"We just couldn't get clutch hits," Mock said. "We left ten runners on base and you can't do that in this type of game. We have to get those [runners] in."
"It's the opposite of the other night when we played [Martin Oil]," Daddura said. "We left a lot of guys on and tonight we were able to return the favor, so it works out. We will see what happens in the championship."
While the championship game will be played today, Martin Oil has already secured a spot in the NABF World Series that starts on Thursday, July 25 through Sunday, July 28 in Struthers, OH.
If Martin Oil wins today, it and Dick's Pharmacy, the Kelly Federation runners-up, will advance to the World Series. If Baltimore wins today, it and Martin Oil will travel to Ohio.
"We will get back at it [today]," Mock said. "We're capable of doing it, we just have to find the holes [in Baltimore's defense]."
MARTIN OIL (2): DeGennaro cf 311, Martin 2b-p 411, Baker 1b 201, Beech rf 402, Creppage c 400, Lingafelt ss 401, Mock lf 200, Luensmann ph 000, Stapleton lf 000, Zitterbart 3b 200, Rabits ph-cf 100, Hunter p-2b-3b 302. Totals - 28-2-8.
BALTIMORE DIAMOND PROS (4): Reynolds p-cf 411, Tipton 2b 412, Farley rf 200, Rabat c 202, Kershner 1b 201, Stark ss 200, Gimblet 3b 311, Huffman cf 200, Reitz p 000, Doan lf 110. Totals - 22-4-7.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Martin Oil100 010 0-2 8 1
Baltimore Diamond Pros101 200 0-4 7 1
E-Kershner, Martin. 2B-Reynolds, Gimblet, Hunter. 3B-Beech. RBI-Beech, Kershner, Farley, Tipton. WP-Reynolds. LP-Hunter. SO-Reynolds 9, Reitz 2, Martin. BB-Reynolds 4, Hunter 3, Martin 2. LOB-Martin Oil 10, Baltimore Diamond Pros-7. SAC-Farley, Doan.
Martin Oil: Hunter-3IP, 7H, 4R, 2ER, 3BB; Martin-1IP, 2H, OR, OER, K, BB.
Baltimore Diamond Pros-Reynolds-5IP, 8H, 2R, 2ER, 9K, 4BB; Reitz-1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, K.
Records: Martin Oil (2-1); Baltimore Diamond Pros (3-1).