JOHNSTOWN - Johnston Realty's mantra heading into the All-American Amateur Baseball Association's national tournament was that it was one of the best teams in the field.
Sunday's draw gave the Altoona entry a chance to prove it.
Johnston Realty ended up in the Upper Bracket with traditional powerhouses Baltimore and New Orleans and was matched against defending champion New Brunswick in the first round.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Johnston Realty third baseman Justin Taylor tags out New Brunswick’s Sean Keenan on an attempted steal.
Kyle Morrow's sixth-inning three-run home run appeared to be a statement that Altoona was ready to live up to its goals, but a pair of late miscues Monday led to a 6-4 loss at Fitchner Field and a spot in the losers' bracket.
"I wish we could have gotten a win out of it," Morrow said. "They're a good team. I think we're a little bit better, but they played well and we had a couple plays that we could have done better."
Holding a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, Johnston Realty manager Mel Curtis turned to relief pitcher Braedon Pennington after starter Kyle Schneider tossed six innings and allowed three runs on six hits and no walks.
Altoona (Johnston Realty) vs. Johnstown (Martella's), at Point Stadium, 1 p.m.
Pennington walked New Brunswick's Sean Keenan after a seven-pitch at-bat. A strikeout later, Kyle Doerr reached on an error by Jordan Faretta that put runners on first and third. After Doerr stole second, Curtis opted to bring his infield in. Dan Sweeney chopped a ground ball through the middle of the infield one pitch later to bring home two runs and give New Brunswick the lead.
"We were trying to protect the lead," Curtis said. "We wanted to stay close with them, and we felt strongly that we could get a ground ball. The pitcher got us a ground ball, but it got through. It would have been a tough play even if the infield was back."
Morrow doubled with one out in the top of the eighth inning, but that hit turned out to be the only one New Brunswick reliever Brandon Dolan allowed.
"The second kid they brought in was pretty good," Morrow said. "He was bringing it pretty well, and he had a good slider."
New Brunswick tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning after Johnston Realty shortstop Mike Marcinko's flip to second for what would have been the final out was a little too wide. Keenan drove in a run with an RBI single a batter later.
"Getting that extra run was huge," New Brunswick manager Glenn Fredericks said. "[Altoona] is a very scrappy team, and they're much improved from the last time we played them two years ago. I have a ton of respect for them, and you need as many runs as you can get in this tournament. No lead is ever safe."
New Brunswick took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning when Rois Pasternak was hit by a pitch and Cody Pace doubled in front of Anderson Rosa's two-run single.
The New Jersey entry has a mixture of new talent along with players returning from last year's championship squad.
"A good bit of our players are back," Fredericks said. "We're missing about five guys who were regulars on last year's team, but some of the role players from last year have been playing significant roles this year. They've been meshing perfectly with the guys who were already here."
Johnston Realty's offensive star of the day, Morrow who finished 2-for-4 with a home run, double and three RBIs, is also new to his team. Morrow played the regular season with Wise Trailer Sales, the runner-up in the Altoona AAABA playoffs.
"I've been watching Kyle for three years now. I wanted him three years ago," Curtis said. "He's a great athlete. He's a great team player. He studies the game, knows the game and he doesn't get rattled.
"There are very few people I'm comfortable with taking two strikes. One is Kyle and one is Marcinko. They know exactly what they're doing. They're just looking for their pitch, and they know they only need that one good one."
Johnston Realty is now one loss away from elimination and will take on Martella's today at Point Stadium at 1 p.m. The Johnstown entry fell, 10-1, to Baltimore on Monday. Curtis has tabbed Garrett Peterson as his starting pitcher.
"We just have to come out and play our game like we know how," Morrow said. "We have a real good team here, and I feel confident it's one of the best in this tournament. This loss just means we have to play more baseball to get to where we want to be."
JOHNSTON REALTY (4): Marcinko ss 411, Schneider p 000, Pennington p 000, Zimmerman dh 411, Myers rf 300, Morrow 1b 412, Faretta 2b 300, Hill c 410, J. Taylor 3b 401, Doran lf 200, Pope lf 100, Weibley cf 300. Totals 32-4-5
NEW BRUNSWICK (6): Sweeney cf 401, Pasternak lf 210, Pace ss 411, A. Taylor p 000, Dolan p 000, Niech dh 321, Rosa c 402, Clary 2b 400, Keenan 3b 312, Marciano 1b 400, Rondesko rf 201, Doerr rf 110. Totals 31-6-8
SCORE BY INNINGS
Johnston Realty000 013 000 4 5 3
New Brunswick000 201 21X 6 8 1
E-Myers, Faretta, Marcinko, Sweeney. 2B-Marcinko, Morrow, Pace, Rosa. HR-Morrow. RBI-Morrow 3, Rosa 3, Sweeney 2, Keenan.
Schneider 6 IP, 6 H, 6 K, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 3 R, 3 ER, 91 pitches
Pennington (L) 2 IP, 2 H, 2 K, 3 BB, 3 R, 1 ER, 47 pitches
Taylor 5 1/3 IP, 4 H, 4 K, 2 BB, 4 R, 3 ER, 72 pitches
Dolan (W) 3 2/3 IP, 1 H, 5 K, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 0 R, 0 ER, 52 pitches
Records: Johnston Realty (0-1); New Brunswick (1-0).