Foose a big relief to Johnston

By John Hartsock

JOHNSTOWN — Ben Foose, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Saturday, is one of the elder statesmen on the Altoona Johnston Realty roster in this year’s AAABA national tournament.

And Foose knows exactly what he’d like for a birthday present this year — to be part of a tournament championship team.

“I’m the old man on this team,” Foose quipped Thursday after tossing 7• innings of scoreless two-hit relief to lead Johnston Realty into today’s semifinal round by virtue of a 4-3 quarterfinal-round victory over Buffalo Full Circuit Power at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point. “I’ll be 22 on Saturday, and hopefully, I’ll get (a championship as) a good birthday gift.”

Foose pitched Altoona, now 4-0 in the tournament, to within two victories of the championship.

Altoona will take on Martella’s Pharmacy of Johnstown tonight at 7 back at the point.

Should Altoona win tonight’s game, it will advance to the championship final on Saturday.

Foose, an Altoona Area High School graduate who will be a senior this fall at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, dug down deep for something extra in Thursday’s game.

Foose entered the game in the top of the second inning, relieving starting pitcher Sam Servello, a Hollidaysburg Area High School senior-to-be who missed the entire spring scholastic baseball season due to a back injury and consequently got a late start on the AAABA season as well after spending a good deal of time rehabbing.

Foose, a right-hander, allowed only two singles, while walking just one batter and striking out five.

“I knew that I had to trust my stuff today, and I felt confident,” Foose said. “I hadn’t thrown in a while, so I was fresh. My biggest problem was getting past the fourth or fifth inning at (UPJ). For me to throw as many innings as I did today was just (due to) a will to win this game.

“I love these guys, they’re hard workers, and a young, talented group of kids,” Foose said. “I think we have a team that can win this tournament, and we’re excited.”

Foose came up with a performance that was just what Altoona needed after he took the ball early in the game on Thursday.

“Foosey came in earlier than planned, but he was excited to pitch today,” Johnston Realty manager Dan Servello said. “He told me that he would do the job, and I love it when the kids turn into prophets.”

Buffalo Full Circuit manager Gordon Karstedt was impressed by Foose’s performance.

“Their second pitcher was dynamite,” Karstedt said of Foose. “He did a really nice job.”

Buffalo Full Circuit put two runs on the board in the top of the first inning to take a 2-0 lead. Sam Servello walked shortstop Andy Xapsos, and hit center fielder Mike Mazzara. After both the runners were wild-pitched up a base, Xapsos scored on first baseman Ryan Mroczka’s groundout.

Mazzara advanced to third on the play, then scored on a passed ball.

Altoona promptly answered with two runs in the bottom of the first inning to tie the score, 2-2. Shortstop Cory Storm led off with a single to center field off Buffalo Full Circuit starting right-hander Jack Collins, who is attending the University of Binghamton.

After both second baseman Keegan Soltis and centerfielder John Servello drew walks to load the bases, and the next two batters struck out, Bellwood-Antis High School grad Trenton Creppage, Altoona’s designated hitter, drilled a clutch single to right-center field to score both Storm and Soltis and tie the game.

“Trenton Creppage got a big hit for us in the first inning,” Dan Servello said.

Buffalo Full Circuit tallied another run in the top of the second inning to go ahead, 3-2. After one runner was forced out at home plate, catcher Jack Arnold came in to score from third base on a passed ball.

Altoona moved back on top to stay, 4-3 in the bottom of the third inning. Soltis reached on an infield single, John Servello walked, and both runners moved up when third baseman Lennox Pugh reached on a Buffalo Full Circuit error, loading the bases.

Right fielder Drew Weglarz drew a bases-loaded walk off Collins, forcing in Soltis and sending John Servello to third, from where he scored when Creppage grounded into a double play.

Altoona had eight singles and didn’t show off the hitting firepower that it did in winning its first three games in this tournament. But Dan Servello credited his team’s pitching and defense Thursday.

“Sometimes, you don’t get the hits, but the big thing is to come out on top,” Servello said. “We can rely on our pitching and defense, and fortunately, both of those things held up for us today.”

Buffalo Full Circuit moved runners to second base in both the fifth and seventh innings, but Foose got out of the jams unscathed.

Karstedt gave Altoona its just due, but was disenchanted with the fact that his Buffalo Full Circuit team was required to start playing Thursday’s 10 a.m. game less than ten hours after losing a rain-delayed 15-9 decision to Johnstown’s Martella’s Pharmacy Wednesday night.

“I wasn’t crazy about the quick turnaround,” said Karstedt, whose team exited the tournament with a 1-3 record. “We didn’t finish (Wednesday’s) game until after midnight, and the kids didn’t get settled in until about 1:30 (a..m.) I didn’t think it was fair for us to have to play the early game (Thursday). Altoona is a class group. I’m glad we got a chance to play them. Their coach can be very proud of them.”

Dan Servello most certainly is.

“This is exciting,” Servello said. “This is what we’ve worked all season for, and we’re just going to try to do our best, and enjoy it.”

BUFFALO FULL CIRCUIT POWER (3): Andy Xapsos ss 211, Mazzara cf 310, Mroczka 1b 400, Szablewski rf 300, Gresham 3b 400, Collins p 000, Peterson p 000, Al Xapsos dh 300, Kellner lf 400, Arnold c 311, Podlas 2b 100. Totals –27-3-2.

ALTOONA JOHNSTON REALTY (4): Storm ss 312, Soltis 2b 321, J. Servello cf 211, Pugh 3b 400, Weglarz rf 301, S. Servello p 000, Foose p 000, Creppage dh 401, Montecalvo lf 300, D. Bankovich ph-lf 101, Treese 1b 401, A. Bankovich c 300. Totals — 30-4-8.


Buffalo Full Circuit 210 000 000–3 2 2

Altoona Johnston Realty 202 000 00X–4 8 0

E–Andy Xapsos, Mroczka. RBI–Mroczka, Creppage 2, Weglarz. SAC–Podlas. SB–Storm. DP–Buffalo turned two (Andy Xapsos to Podlas to Mroczka; Podlas to Andy Xapsos to Mroczka); Altoona turned one (Storm to Soltis to Treese). HBP–Mazzara by S. Servello. LOB–Altoona 7, Buffalo Full Circuit 4.


Buffalo Full Circuit: Collins (L) 4IP, 4H, 4R, 2ER, 5BB, 6SO; Peterson 4IP, 5H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 3SO.

Altoona: S. Servello 1 2/3IP, 0H, 3R, 1ER, 4BB, 1SO; Foose (W) 7 2/3IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 1BB, 5SO.

WP–S. Servello 2, Foose. PB–A. Bankovich 2.

Umpires: Seth Matthews (plate); Brent Dorofrey (first base); Ron Goisovich (second base); Rich Horner (third base).