JOHNSTOWN - Timely hitting and outstanding pitching often provide a winning combination at any level of baseball.
Altoona's Wise Trailer Sales entry got outstanding hurling from three different pitchers and just enough clutch hitting to defeat Johnstown's Martella's Pharmacy, 2-1, in the second round of the All-American Amateur Baseball Association's National Tournament Tuesday night at Johnstown's Point Stadium.
Altoona continues play in the tournament's winners bracket today at noon against Philadelphia at Roxbury Park. Philadelphia advanced with a 3-2 win over Schenectady in Tuesday afternoon's second round.
Altoona enjoyed solid pitching throughout the game in defeating its archrivals. Kane McCall, a right-hander who attends Clarion University, tossed seven solid innings, allowing just three hits, one earned run, and he struck out four.
After Zach Helsel came on in the eighth inning to retire two batters, Jextin Pugh earned the save by working the final 1 innings, working out of a bases-loaded, two-out situation in the eighth inning and striking out Nemo Trexler with the potential tying and winning runs on base in the ninth inning.
"This was the kind of game that everybody wants to play in, the kind of situation that everybody wants to be part of,'' said Pugh, a former Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School standout who will be a sophomore at Iowa Western Community College this fall. "Everybody pulled together as a team today. This was an incredible atmosphere, and a great win for Wise Trailer Sales.''
Altoona manager Rick Westover felt confident with Pugh on the mound in the late going.
"Jextin's our horse,'' Westover said. "We're going to live or die with Jextin. He's a competitor.''
Westover also had high words of praise for his other two pitchers, McCall and Zane Helsel. Together, McCall, Helsel and Pugh combined to limit Johnstown to five hits.
"Kane McCall is a pick-up player we got for this tournament from Johnston Realty,'' Westover said. "He's a bulldog, and he pounded the strike zone tonight. I couldn't ask for anything more from him. Zane Helsel also came in and threw the ball well. I trust our guys out there.''
Altoona first baseman Christian Helsel provided the winners' offensive spark, belting a solo homer over the brick wall in left-center field in the first inning to stake Wise to a 1-0 lead, and hitting a fourth-inning double and scoring Altoona's second run on a single by right fielder Isaac Stern to put Altoona ahead, 2-0.
On a night when Altoona's pitching was fantastic, Christian Helsel's bat was enough.
"I was feeling pretty good,'' Christian Helsel said. "I got some good pitches to hit, and that's what I did. Luckily, our pitching was so good tonight that we didn't need a lot of runs.''
Altoona managed only five hits off Johnstown right-hander Nick Cubamey, who worked 7 strong innings and suffered the hard-luck loss.
"They're a great team,'' Johnstown manager Chris Pfeil said of Altoona. "And their kid (McCall) threw a gem tonight. It was simply a matter of him being a little bit better than our guy (Cubamey).''
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the eighth inning, Johnstown scored its only run when left fielder Anthony Fanelli drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk off Pugh.
Pugh got the next batter, first baseman Luke Williams, to line out to Christian Helsel to end the threat and preserve Altoona's 2-1 lead heading into the ninth inning. Pfeil was ejected for arguing home plate umpire Jesse Wright's called third-strike call on center fielder Tony Straisser for the second out of the inning with two runners on base.
In the ninth, Pugh retired the first two batters before right fielder Jesse Cooper walked and second baseman Dillon Boyer bounced an infield hit to deep short. But Pugh got Trexler looking at a called third strike as Altoona hung on for the win.
And the right to advance to the third round in the winners bracket today against perennially-tough Philadelphia.
"Philadelphia is going to be tough,'' Westover said. "There are no easy teams when you get to Wednesday.''
MARTELLA'S PHARMACY (1): Boyer 2b 411, Negri 3b 300, Trexler pr-rf 100, Straisser cf 400, Morrow dh 401, Nederheiser pr 000, Fanelli lf 201, Williams 1b 400, McMillen rf 301, I. Helsel ph 100, Gully c 200, Cooper rf 201, Cubamey p 000, Supanick p 000, Smith p 000. Totals - 30-1-5.
WISE TRAILER SALES (2): Runk cf 401, Faretta 3b 500, C. Helsel 1b 422, Pugh dh-p 200, J. Stern 2b 301, I. Stern rf 301, Treaster c 400, Stover ss 300, Swope lf 300, Herncane ph-lf 000, McCall p 000, Z. Helsel p 000. Totals - 31-2-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Martella's Pharmacy000 000 010-1 5 1
Wise Trailer Sales101 000 000-2 5 0
E-Supanick. 2B-C. Helsel. HR-C. Helsel. RBI-Fanelli, C. Helsel, I. Stern. SF-J. Stern. HBP-Negri (by Z. Helsel); Gully (by McCall). LOB-Martella's Pharmacy 10, Wise Trailer Sales 10. WP-McCall. LP-Cubamey. SO-Cubamey 3, Supanick 2, Smith 1, McCall 4, Z. Helsel 1, Pugh 1. BB-Cubamey 2, Supanick 3, Smith 1, McCall 2, Pugh 2.
Umpires: Home, Jesse Wright; First, Andy Null; Second, Bill Meyers; Third, Scott Reiter.