Mountain, Evans key for Bank title
When its backs were against the wall in this year’s Altoona Teener Major League baseball playoffs, the PennCrest Bank team heroically answered the bell.
PennCrest became an expert at mastering the elimination game through its three playoff series, capping off its run with a 2-1 victory over Professionals Auto Body in Tuesday night’s decisive Game 3 championship series showdown for the league title at Seitz Field.
PennCrest was 5-0 in elimination games this postseason, which was a testament to the team’s intestinal fortitude as well as its collective talent and ability.
“This was our fifth elimination game, and we won them all,” first-year PennCrest manager Jon Fleck said. “That was a lot of pressure on these kids this postseason, and these kids showed a lot of mental toughness.”
Tuesday marked the third straight league championship for the PennCrest franchise, but only three players returned this year from last season’s championship team.
One of them was first baseman Reese Evans, an incoming junior at Hollidaysburg Area High School, who provided the game-winning hit Tuesday. Evans dumped a single into right field in the bottom of the sixth inning to score Ryan Hopkins from third base and break a 1-1 tie.
Hopkins had reached on a walk, advanced to second on a passed ball, and moved to third on center fielder Carson Kensinger’s single to center.
“It feels great,” Evans said of being part of his second consecutive league championship team. “A lot of people weren’t expecting us to go far this year, but we pulled through in big games and won.”
Pitching was an integral part of PennCrest’s postseason success. After getting a solid pitching effort from lefty Kensinger in a Game 2 win Tuesday, right-hander Kaleb Mountain came through with a complete-game performance Tuesday, spacing seven Professionals Auto Body singles while striking out six. Mountain did not walk a batter.
“My curve ball wasn’t working for the first couple of innings, but my fast ball was sharp the whole game,” said Mountain, who will be a sophomore at Central High School. “I just went out there to throw strikes and to let them hit it.”
Mountain, who completed the start in a very effective 82 pitches, did just that, according to Fleck.
“He did an excellent job,” Fleck said of Mountain. “He had great control, throwing his curve ball for strikes and locating his fast ball well. He kept (Professionals Auto Body) off-balance. They couldn’t seem to square him up.”
Right-hander Matt Smith also pitched an excellent game for Professionals Auto Body, turning in a complete-game effort of six innings, allowing just five singles, striking out four, and walking four.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Professionals Auto Body manager Kent Martin said. “We got great pitching from Matt Smith, and they got great pitching from Kaleb Mountain. (PennCrest) just prevailed.”
PennCrest pushed across a run in the bottom of the fourth when Kensinger walked, moved to second on an error, and scored on Mountain’s single to right field.
Professionals Auto Body tied the game at 1-1 with a run in the top of the sixth inning. First baseman Ben Staplefeld led off with a single to left field, stole second, moved to third on Smith’s infield single, and scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by shortstop Joe Bukowsky.
In the end, PennCrest displayed a little more staying power.
“We played nine games in 11 days — it was a great run,” Fleck said. “Our pitching got us through this series. I think that our team showed a lot of guts the whole way through the playoffs.”
PROFESSIONALS AUTO BODY (1): Staplefeld 1b 311, Smith p 301, Bukosky ss 200, Stevenson cf 300, Horn lf 302, Hartman 2b 300, Stampley c 301, Martin eh 300, Crawford rf 302, Holtzlander 3b 300. Totals –29-1-7.
PENNCREST BANK (2): Blough ss 200, Young 2b 300, Hopkins rf 210, Kensinger cf 211, Evans 1b 301, Clapper c 300, Mountain p 302, Helsel lf 201, Fleck 3b 100, Dennis ph 100, Minnoia eh 000, Bridenbaugh ph 100. Totals — 23-2-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Professionals…………000 001 0–1 7 2
PennCrest Bank…….000 101 X–2 5 2
RBI–Bukosky, Evans, Mountain. SB–Horn 2, Stevenson, Staplefeld. SF–Bukowsky. WP–Mountain. LP–Smith. SO–Smith 4, Mountain 6. BB–Smith 4.
Umpires: Chris Perino (plate); Will Fitzgerald (1b); Justin Perino (3b).