Wise Trailer Sales has been the top team in Altoona's All American Amateur Baseball Association for the past two regular seasons, but Johnston Realty remained the face of the league in the national tournament after upsetting Wise in the playoffs a year ago.
Wise delivered a message to Johnston that it wasn't going to let that happen again Tuesday in Juniata, and it made it early.
With a runner on first in the bottom of the first inning, Christian Helsel hit into what could have been an inning-ending double play. But Johnston Realty third baseman Caleb Bennett couldn't handle a sharp grounder, Helsel reached on the error, and the flood gates opened.
Wise Trailer Sales scored six runs in the inning en route to a 13-3, five inning victory in Game 1 of the teams' best-of-five series.
"We've got some really talented kids, and I think maybe this is the first time all year that we put it all together and played a complete game," Wise Trailer Sales manager Rick Westover said. "I'm proud of the way the guys came out and took advantage of the situation they were given."
Jextin Pugh and Jake Stern each had RBI singles before Cy Treaster slammed the first of his pair of two-run doubles. Adam Polites drove in a run with a groundout before a strange play made it 6-0.
With runners on first and third, Johnston Realty starter Parker Watson struck out Lucas Runk on a wild pitch, and catcher Derek Heckathorne retrieved the ball with plenty of time to throw out Runk but did not make the throw to first. Instead, he slowly walked to the plate and arrived about the same time as a hustling Treaster. All runners were safe, and the inning continued before Chris Calliari made a nice running catch in center field to stop the bleeding.
"You can't give them runs," Johnston Realty manager Joe Faretta said. "That play at third ... we turn that play and I think the inning and the game could have turned out differently. Against a good hitting team like that who is well prepared, your defense has to be able to make plays."
Johnston Realty, which first represented Altoona in the AAABA nationals in 2002 and has been a staple for the most part in the tournament since, sliced the lead in half during a third-inning rally thanks to three straight singles by Bennett, Calliari and Ty Zimmerman to open the inning. Jordan Faretta and Justin Taylor hit sacrifice flies, and Heckathorne had an RBI double.
However, Wise Trailer Sales fired right back, scoring three runs in the bottom of the inning. Runk, who also made several running catches in center field, hit a two-run triple and came into score on a Helsel single.
"It was a pretty big hit for me, because I was 0-for-2 when everyone else was hitting," Runk said. "I needed that to get my confidence back up. It came with a good time and a couple runners on base. That was when we knew the game was probably over right then and there."
It was, though not officially until Wise Trailer Sales added a pair of runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. Johnston Realty's pitchers struggled with the strike zone, walking six batters over the final two innings. Two of those walks came with the bases loaded.
"We have got to stay away from the walks, and we had nine total today," Joe Faretta said. "We have to throw strikes, and like I said, they are a tremendous hitting team and you've got to work the corners.
"You put the ball in the middle of the plate against this team, and you're going to get hurt every time."
Treaster drove home Helsel and Pugh with a walk-off double to close out the game and give Wise a 1-0 series lead. The second game is tonight at Juniata at 5:30 p.m.
"This series is big for our organization," Westover said. "We're the No. 1 seed, but it was the same last year and Johnston took it to us in the playoffs. Until we beat them three games, Johnston is the team that represents Altoona.
"We have to do it one game at a time and stay within ourselves, and hopefully we're where we need to be at the end of the season."
JOHNSTON REALTY (3): Calliari cf 311, Zimmerman ss 311, Faretta 2b 200, Taylor dh 202, Heckathorne c 301, Hill rf 100, McHenry 1b 200, Bush lf 200, Summers lf 000, Bennett 3b 211. Totals - 20-3-6.
WISE TRAILER SALES (13): Runk cf 311, I. Stern rf 411, C. Helsel 1b 321, Pugh dh 422, J. Stern 2b 422, Stover ss 120, Treaster c 312, Polites 3b 3b 211, Herncane lf 110. Totals - 25-13-10.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Johnston Realty003 00X X-3 6 2
Wise Trailer Sales603 22X X-13 13 1
E-Bennett, Zimmerman, Helsel. 2B-Heckathorne, Taylor, Treaster 2. 3B-Runk. RBI-Faretta, Taylor, Heckathorne, Runk 3, Helsel, Pugh, J. Stern, Treaster 4, Polites 2.
Watson-(L) 2 1/3IP, 6H, 3BB, 1K, 9R, 7ER, 66 pitches
Beimel-1IP, 1H, 1BB, 0K, 2R, 2ER, 22 pitches
Klingensmith-0IP, 0 H, 2BB, 0K, 0R, 0ER, 11 pitches
Dailey-2/3IP, 1H, 2BB, 1K, 2R, 2ER, 24 pitches
Belinda-1/3IP, 1H, 1BB, 0K, 0R, 0ER, 8 pitches
WISE TRAILER SALES
Martin-(W) 5IP, 6H, 1BB, 2K, 3R, 3ER, 73 pitches
Umpires: Brandon Hoover (HP), Larry Stitt, Joe Bidoli Jr.