Explosive ‘Cats garner title
By Michael Boytim
The last Huntingdon team to win the Curve Classic made it all the way to the state championship game in 2004.
This year’s Bearcats are hoping to at least match that feat.
Huntingdon outscored its semifinal and championship opponents by a combined total of 20 runs Saturday and finished off Altoona, 14-4, in six innings to claim the 16th annual Curve Classic at Peoples Natural Gas Field Saturday night.
Starting pitcher Alex Mykut struggled through the first two innings and allowed four earned runs while throwing 37 pitches, but his triple in the bottom of the second inning put the Bearcats ahead, 5-4, and they never looked back.
“Mykut has done it all season for us on the mound and at the plate,” Huntingdon coach George Zanic said. “He’s locked in and always getting key hits for us. On the mound, he was hitting 90 on the gun, but Altoona was hitting him. He adjusted with his curveball, and that was huge.”
Mykut reached base in all five of his plate appearances and finished a home run short of the cycle with three RBIs. Mykut is one of nine seniors who returned from last season’s squad that won the District 6 championship and made the PIAA semifinals.
“There’s a lot of expectations from last year that carried over into this year,” Mykut said. “We have a lot of seniors on this team, and we need to keep practicing and work toward our goal of a state championship.”
Huntingdon’s Nick Holesa, who went 2-for-5 with a double, triple and three runs scored in the championship game, was named the tournament MVP.
“We have a lot of goals that we set at the start of the season and one of those was winning the Curve Classic,” Zanic said. “These kids love playing here.”
The Bearcats opened the tournament Friday by beating Mountain League rival Central, which defeated them in the PIAA semifinals and went on to win the state championship last year. Saturday, Huntingdon cruised to the Curve Classic title by outscoring its opponents, 24-4.
“It’s a really special event, and I want to thank the Lozinak family and the entire Curve organization,” Zanic said. “They were here working non-stop all weekend, and it’s much appreciated. We are thrilled to be the champion.”
Altoona trailed by just one heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, but the Bearcats scored seven runs, thanks in part to some Mountain Lion miscues, to break the game open.
“We sort of ran out of pitching,” Altoona coach Tom Smith said. “We were crossing our fingers when we had to go to the bullpen. We were hoping for some better luck, but it didn’t happen. We gave them four runs in the first inning with three errors. Obviously they are a very good team, and you can’t give them four runs on errors to start the game.”
Mountain Lion starter Braeden Burchfield lasted just four innings and exited after throwing 102 pitches. The senior built up a large pitch count by striking out nine batters and walking six.
Altoona used five pitchers in its 11-8 semifinal victory over Chestnut Ridge just 30 minutes before the championship game.
“After that first game, we were running short,” Smith said. “Whether that would have mattered or not, I don’t know, because Huntingdon is a very good team.”
Matt Hartman went 3-for-3 with a run scored, a pair of doubles and three RBIs for the Mountain Lions. He finished with nine RBIs in Altoona’s three tournament games.
“That’s a great sign, because we need Matt to swing the bat real well,” Smith said. “Hopefully it will be contagious and some other guys who have been struggling start hitting the ball too. Matt needs to be a leader offensively and defensively, and we’re expecting big things from him.”
ALTOONA (4): Kravetz lf 221, Hartman ss 313, Yon rf 300, Sinisi 3b 200, Hunter c 302, Gority 1b 301, Burchfield p 000, Bardelang p 000, Casillo p 000, Baney dh 100, Becker cf 300, Gibson 2b 212, DeRubeis cr-2b 100. Totals — 23-4-9.
HUNTINGDON (14): Zanic cf 421, Holesa ss 532, Showalter rf 431, Mykut p 303, Wagner cr 020, Cook cr 000, Briggs 1b 522, Weglarz lf 311, Troha c 000, Conner dh 200, Safko pr 010, Ritchey 2b 000, Gearhart 3b 200, Fisher ph 200. Totals — 30-14-10.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Altoona 220 000 X–4 9 6
Huntingdon 410 072 X–14 10 0
E–Hartman 2, Burchfield, Kravetz, Sinsi, Hunter. 2B–Hartman 2, Hunter, Holesa, Mykut, Weglarz. 3B–Briggs, Holesa, Mykut. RBI–Hartman 3, Hunter, Mykut 3, Briggs 3, Weglarz 2, Holesa, Zanic.
Altoona: Burchfield (L)–4IP, 4H, 9K, 6BB, 5ER, 7R, 102 pitches; Bardelang–2/3 IP, 4H, 0K, 1BB, 1ER, 4R, 27 pitches; Casillo 1 1/3IP, 2H, 1K, 1BB, 2HBP, 2R, 2ER, 36 pitches.
Huntingdon: Mykut (W)–6IP, 9H, 5K, 1BB, 4R, 4ER, 87 pitches.
Umpires: Shaun McCready (HP), Dave Adams (bases).
Records: Altoona (3-4); Huntingdon (7-0).