Although Central coach A.J. Hoenstine and starting pitcher Ethan Lewis both admit to Lewis' slow starts on the mound, neither could be more pleased with the endings.
After throwing 25 pitches and allowing an unearned run in the top of the first inning, Lewis settled down to allow just three base runners in the final six frames as Central defeated Hollidaysburg, 6-1, to claim its first Curve Classic title at PNG Field Sunday.
"I always feel confident with my team behind me," Lewis said. "I always seem to struggle at the beginning, but then I see some of the amazing plays our guys make and it's just unbelievable."
One of those plays came in the top of the first inning. After Jordan McCall reached on an error, designated hitter Andy Crum hit a ball that tailed away from Zach Slagenweit in his center field position, but his gamble paid off when he made the diving catch to secure the second out.
"Ethan often starts slow," Hoenstine said. "He gets stronger as the game goes on. Slagenweit made a fantastic play for us and has made a number of them in the tournament."
Lewis retired 19 of the last 22 hitters he faced after John Servello gave the Golden Tigers their only lead when he brought in McCall with an infield single.
"We got one [run], then he settled in," Hollidaysburg coach Jon Szynal said. "He threw a couple good pitches for strikes and settled in more once they added five more."
Central evened the score during its half of the first inning. Austin Cunningham led off with a bunt single and scored when Mike Mock drove him in with a two-out single.
Mock was named tournament MVP, as he went 4-for-9 with three runs scored and an RBI. Mock also threw a complete game shutout in Central's win over Huntingdon on Friday.
Lewis was much more efficient in the second inning, retiring all three batters in just five pitches.
Central received plenty of insurance in the bottom of the inning. After Brendon Vollkommer and Jacob Mellott singled to start the inning, Slagenweit drove a double down the left field line that brought in Vollkommer. Cunningham scored Mellott on a sacrifice fly and Jay Stern brought in Slagenweit and courtesy runner Cullen Gahagan with a single to left.
Central's seven through nine hitters combined for five hits, four runs and two RBIs.
"It's big to get those guys going," Hoenstine said. "We have changed around our seven through nine hitters and a lot of guys have been producing. Vollkommer, Mellott and Slagenweit have been great for us."
Central added its sixth and final run when Vollkommer scored on a bunt single by Slagenweit in the third inning.
The Dragons had their lead off hitter on in each of the first five innings.
"They have guys that can [bunt and steal bases]," Szynal said. "They have lots of speed and executed very well."
Hollidaysburg's second and final hit came on a Trent Sipes single in the seventh inning.
"I was trying to jam them throwing the 2-seam [fastball]," Lewis said. "I just wanted to keep the ball low and inside to keep the ball in the infield."
Mock, Slagenweit and Vollkommer each had two hits for Central.
"It's great to win our first Curve Classic," Hoenstine said. "We've been coming here since it started and have been to the championship, but haven't won. Our pitching lined up really well."
HOLLIDAYSBURG (1): Sipes ss 301, Storm ss 000, McCall 3b 310, Smolko 3b 000, Ciprich p 000, Waltz p 000, Crum dh 000, Servello rf 301, Helsel rf 000, Simpson 1b 000, Barton 1b 000, Treese ph 000, Stubbs 2b 200, Ritchey 2b 000, Kelly 2b 100, Hilling c 200, Peterson c 000, Miller ph 000, Fluke cf 000, Dongell cf 100, Augustine lf 100, Weaver lf 100. Totals-24 1 2
CENTRAL (6): Cunningham ss 311, Lewis p 201, Gahagan cr 010, Stern 1b 301, Knepp 1b 100, Moore lf 400, Mock 3b 302, Hoenstine 2b 300, Ritchey c 000, Vollkommer dh 322, Mellott rf 211, Smith rf 100, Slagenweit cf 212. Totals-27 6 10
Score by inning
Hollidaysburg 100 000 0-1 2 2
Central 141 000 X-6 10 4
E-Simpson, Ritchey, Mock, Ritchey, Cunningham, Lewis. 2B-Slagenweit. RBI-Servello, Mock, Slagenweit 2, Stern 2, Cunningham. SB-McCall, Cunningham 2, Lewis, Mock. CS-Moore, Mellott. LOB-Hollidaysburg 3, Central 8. SAC-Cunningham. DP-Hollidaysburg 1. WP-Waltz 2, Lewis. PB-Ritchey.
Hollidaysburg: Ciprich (L)-2 2/3 IP, 9H, 6R, 6 ER, 2K, 2BB.
Waltz-3 1/3 IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 2K, 3BB.
Central: Lewis (W)-7 IP, 2H, 1R, 0 ER, 4K, 1BB.
Umpires-Shawn McCready, John Garritano, Brian Bect.