Defensive gem sinks Claysburg
CLEARFIELD — Claysburg had clawed back to within a run of Hempfield East in its opening game of the Region 7 American Legion Baseball Tournament on Saturday afternoon at the Lawrence Township Recreation Park field.
With Claysburg’s Alex Hoenstine on second base and one out in the top of the ninth inning, Chase Smith hit a sinking line drive into short center field. For one fleeting moment, it looked like the ball would drop in and the fleet-footed Hoenstine would score.
But Hempfield East center fielder Timothy Rosenberg made a tremendous diving catch for the second out. Pitcher Garrett Stevenson — the fifth pitcher of the game for Hempfield and eighth between the teams — then got Josh McKnight to bounce out for the third out and preserve a 6-5 victory for the Westmoreland County League runner-up.
“Our center fielder, Andrew Rosenberg, made the play of the year as far as our team is concerned,” Hempfield East manager Harry Shamberger said. “It was an unbelievable catch. He shows off the leather every chance he gets. That’s more routine for him than for most kids.”
“First off, my hat’s off to him,” Claysburg manager Dave Aungst said. “He made an outstanding catch. If that ball gets down, we may score two runs, because it may go all of the way to the wall. But he laid himself out and made a catch as good of a catch as you’re going to see. That’s what good teams do. They make those plays when you need them.”
Hempfield East scored a run in the first on a Branson Auckerman RBI single. East starting pitcher Zayne Zalich retired the first nine Claysburg batters until Hoenstine doubled to the left-center gap to lead off the fourth.
Rosenberg came into pitch with a 3-1 count on Chase Smith. None of the East had more than 50 pitches in the nine-inning game (all games in the double-elimination tournament are scheduled for nine). Shamberger was paying close attention to the pitches because of the tournament pitching rules.
“We were trying to abide by all of the pitching rules for the regional tournament,” Shamberger said, “and not burn anybody for tomorrow and the rest of the tournament. Collectively, our pitchers got it done. We tried to keep their guys off-balance with switching up pitchers.”
Winters drove in Claysburg’s first run in the game with a one-out single to right off of Rosenberg.
Hempfield East scored three runs in the fifth, and none of them were earned for Aden McMonagle — the second of three Claysburg pitchers — due to two errors.
“We’re always game for battling back, but you just can’t give that much that early,” Aungst said. “You’re not always going to win those battles. We just played uncharacteristic ball for us for six or seven innings, both offensively and defensively, and we just got in a little bigger hole than we could fight out of.”
Hunter Eperesi greeted Claysburg’s third pitcher, Dakota Chamberlain, with a home run to left field to start the sixth.
In the seventh, with East runners on second and third and two outs, catcher Winters tried to pick off Auckerman at third base, but the throw bounced into left field to score another run, making the score 6-1. Chamberlain got the third out.
“Kids see things sometimes,” Aungst. “My guys play aggressively, and I give them a lot of freedom. It was there. We just didn’t execute it.”
Claysburg finally got something going in the top of the eighth off of the fourth East pitcher, Josh Stuchell. The Cambria County champion scored four unearned runs, taking advantage of two errors. Winters drove in the first two with a single to left, Ryan Leonard followed with a triple to right. Chamberlain plated Leonard with a single to left to make the score 6-5.
“That got us going,” Aungst said of Winters’ hit. “Casey had a nice at-bat, squared one up, and was able to get us going again. We followed it up with a couple more hits, and we scored another run.
“We just didn’t hit anything solid the first seven innings.”
Hoenstine led off the ninth by working a walk off of Stevenson, and Cory Houck moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. And then Rosenberg followed with his rally-killing catch.
Claysburg is back in action at 11 a.m. today at the Lawrence Township field against Blairsville, a 14-0 loser to Clearfield. Hempfield East plays Clearfield at 2 p.m.
“We’re capable of being better,” Aungst said. “We’ve just got to come out tomorrow, battle one game at a time and see if we can work our way back.”
Claysburg (5): Hoenstine ss 411, Houck lf 411, Smith cf 510, McKnight p-1b 300, Winters c 312, Leonard rf 411, Chamberlain 3b-p 401, McMonagle 1b-p-3b 401, Corle 2b 400. Totals: 35-5-7.
Hempfield East (6): Rosenberg cf-p 521, Boyle rf 201, Stevenson ss-p 311, Auckerman 3b-p 412, Brannon lf 400, Eperesi 2b 311, R. Borbonus 1b 301, Carrera pr 000, Stuchell p-3b-ss 100, Zalich p-rf-1b 410, J. Borbonus c 400. Totals: 33-6-7.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Claysburg 000 100 040–5 7 3
Hempfield East 100 031 10X–6 7 3
E–Chamberlain 2, Winters; Auckerman 2, Eperesi. 2B–Hoenstine, Rosenberg. 3B–Leonard, Stevenson. HR–Eperesi. RBIs–Winters 3, Leonard, Chamberlain; Rosenberg 2, Stevenson, Auckerman, Eperesi. SB–Houck, Boyle 2, Zalich. SAC–Houck, McKnight. HBP–Winters (by Rosenberg), Rosenberg (by McKnight).
McKnight–4 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO, 1 HBP
McMonagle (L)–1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO
Chamberlain–3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO.
Zalich–3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO
Rosenberg (W)–3 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO, 1 HBP
Stuchell–1 1/3 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO
Auckerman–1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO
Stevenson–1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO
Records: Claysburg (24-3); Hempfield East (19-4).