Altoona entry flashes leather, lumber to capture opener
Thanks to a Brandon Myers home run and a dazzling double play, Altoona Johnston Realty got off to a fast start in the All American Amateur Baseball Association Regional Tournament.
Myers’ solo homer over the right field fence in the bottom of the sixth inning broke a 1-1 tie and lifted Johnston Realty to a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Bandits in a first-round game Friday afternoon at Juniata Field.
Johnston’s Mike Marcinko reached on an error to open the bottom of the first, John Shaffer’s double into the gap in right-center chased Marcinko home and it stayed that way until the sixth when Steve Todd’s fielder’s choice scored Mark Tomei to tie the score at 1-1.
Johnston retaliated immediately, though, when the lefty-swinging Myers jumped on a fastball and drilled it over the fence.
“First of all, tip your cap to that kid [Philly pitcher Pat Vanderslice],” Myers said, “because he did a great job of keeping us off balance.
“My first two at-bats I had trouble seeing the ball,” Myers, from Philipsburg, noted. “He got two strikes on me the last time and I was just looking to hit the ball hard somewhere. And, I got one over the fence.”
Although the Myers homer proved to be the difference, Johnston pitcher Nate Pope survived a possible bad inning in the fourth when his teammates turned in a huge double play.
After Bill Fleming reached on an error, Pope, a Hollidaysburg product, fanned the next batter. Ryan Fleming drew a walk to give Philly runners at first and second.
Todd followed with a line single to right field, but Myers fired a strike to the plate where Johnston catcher Kyle Morrow made a diving tag on Bill Fleming. Morrow scrambled to his feet and pegged a strike of his own to second, where Marcinko applied the tag on Todd for the inning-ending double play.
“The play of the game,” Johnston manager Mel Curtis said later.
Pope pitched the last four innings in relief of Mike Finlan and earned the win. It wasn’t easy, though.
Besides escaping the fourth, Pope also got out of a jam in the sixth when Philly loaded the bases with two walks and a single but settled for one run.
“I was having trouble throwing strikes. I just couldn’t get it over the plate,” Pope said.
“The double play was huge,” Pope said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Curtis said the team will have to play better this morning when it faces Youngstown (also 1-0) at 10 o’clock at Juniata.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it’s a win,” Johnston manager Mel Curtis said. “We got a run in the first inning, when we had our first hit, and then we didn’t get our second hit until the sixth inning – the home run.
“We were just flat,” he said. “We just didn’t come out ready to hit.”
However, a win is a win, and Johnston survived the challenging opener.
“No matter what, you have to win the first one because you can’t win the second, if you don’t win the first,” Myers said.
“This was a good test for us and I think we’ll build on it.”
“Winning the first game is huge,” Pope added. “It sets the stage for the whole tournament.”
PHILADELPHIA BANDITS (1): McCormick lf 301, Plunkett rf 400, Posavec pr 000, Tomei cf 310, B. Fleming 2b 302, Harwick 1b 300, R. Fleming dh 000, Vanderslice p 000, Todd 3b 301, Callahan c 300, Podgurski ss 200. Totals – 24-1-4.
ALTOONA JOHNSTON REALTY (2): Marcinko ss 310, Myers rf 311, Shaffer 1b 201, Pugh dh 300, Finlan p 000, Pope p 000, Hill c 100, Morrow c 100, Doran lf 200, Zimmerman lf 000, Taylor 3b 200, Faretta 2b 200, Weibley cf 200. Totals – 21-2-2.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Philadelphia000 001 0-1 4 2
Johnston Realty100 001 X-2 2 2
E-Vanderslice, Podgurski, Marcinko, Faretta. 2B-Shaffer. HR – Myers. RBI-Shaffer, Myers, Todd
PHILADELPHA IP R ER H SO BB
Vanderslice (L) 6 2 1 2 6 1
ALTOONA IP R ER H SO BB
Finlan 3 0 0 2 1 2
Pope (W) 4 1 1 2 5 3
HPB – McCormick by Pope.
Umpires – Brandon Hoover (HP), Larry Stitt (1b), Greg Hoover (2b), Bob Buck (3b).