JOHNSTOWN - The last time Ligonier Valley and Northern Cambria tangled in baseball, the Rams imploded, blowing a two-run lead in the seventh inning before losing in extra innings.
When they met Friday afternoon at Ligonier Valley High School, the Rams exploded and with the 7-1 win, will advance to the second round of the District 6 Class AA baseball playoffs.
"I like the explosion better," a smiling coach John Jones said after his team knocked off the regular-season champion Colts. "I had a good feeling today that we were going to bash the ball and the feeling was intensified in the first inning. We went out 1-2-3, but every ball was hit hard."
But that was just a warmup.
Those hard-hit balls started finding holes in the Colts' defense and the Rams took control of the game in the second. Rick Ross and Jordan Jones ripped singles to left and right, respectively and, after a strikeout by starting pitcher Andrew Schultz, sophomore first baseman
Al Vigliotti laced a shot into right field that scored both runners.
Then things got sloppy for Northern Cambria. Two errors by third baseman Chris Hornick opened the floodgates for Vigliotti and Wyatt Stouffer to score.
The Colts managed their only run in the top of the third, parlaying a run with a walk and two singles and a bases-loaded walk by Ed Waldron.
But Schultz struck out the next three batters to limit the damage.
Jones' team put the game away in the bottom of the third. Ross again led off with a hit, this time an infield single to deep short. Jones hammered a double to right and Schultz helped his own cause with a shot to right that scored both runners.
Northern Cambria changed pitchers at that point, bringing left fielder Josh Prasko in from left field to replace Waldron, the starter.
"It was our plan to start Ed today because he doesn't throw as hard, kind of pitches to spots and can keep teams off balance," Northern Cambria coach John Bonatesta said. "Then if we needed to, we would bring Josh in because he has a little more velocity."
Prasko inherited a runner and Vigliotti ripped another single to right to move Schultz to third. Shaffer brought him home with an infield out. Just like that it was 7-1 and while both teams had plenty more chances to score, that ended up being the final score.
That was particularly painful for NC, which left 14 runners in scoring position.
"Oh my, tons of opportunities," Bonatesta said. "We had the bases loaded, nobody out and scored one run. We had first and second and nobody out twice and second and third with nobody out once. We just have to capitalize in those situations. We have to put the ball in play and we didn't."
For Ligonier Valley, Schultz got the win, but it wasn't as easy as the 7-1 score would indicate. He gave up five hits, struck out six and walked five.
"Andrew wasn't as razor sharp as usual," said Jones. "But he battled all day and got us through five [innings] which is what we hoped for. We planned on bringing Jordan in and he wasn't at his best today. The last time we played these guys they hit him pretty hard and he was aiming the ball a bit today."
The game was one that featured a lot of young players on both sides, which makes the fact that NC finished 12-4 to win the Heritage and LV was 10-6 a pretty remarkable season for both teams.
None of the Colts had more than one hit, while Ross, Jones, Schultz and Vigliotti each had two for Ligonier Valley.
Up next for the Rams is a trip to Martinsburg Monday to face the tough Scarlet Dragons.
"Central is undefeated (18-0), the No. 1 seed and a heck of a team," Jones said. "We're just happy to be part of the show and look forward to the challenge."
NORTHERN CAMBRIA (1): Olish 401, Hornick 210, Prasko 301, Frontino 401, Waldron 301, Serafin 200, Persing 100, Lieb 000, Olenchik 301, Weiland 300, Weiland 300, Novella 300. Totals - 28 1 5.
LIGONIER VALLEY (7): Tutino 400, Mills 400, Nemeth 400, Ross 322, Jones 322, Schultz 312, Vigliotti 212, Stouffer 310, Stiles 201. Totals - 38 7 9.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Northern Cambria001 000 0-1 7 3
Ligonier Valley043 000 X-7 9 0
2B-Jones, Schultz. WP-Schultz. LP-Waldron. SO-Schultz 6, Waldron. BB-Schultz 5, Waldron.