BROCKWAY — Brockway relief pitcher Tino Inzana caught Elk County Catholic’s Brennen Klawuhn looking for strike three on a full-count pitch with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh to secure a 7-5 victory for the Rovers in their season-opener.
Inzana came in to pitch in relief with two outs in the inning after Conner Ford allowed a single by Will Uberti and a walk to Ryan Fritz in relief of starting pitcher Tyler Serafini.
With the tying run at second and go-ahead run on first Inzana fell behind 3-0 on Klawuhn, but found the edge of the zone on the next pitch, then got him to foul one back to bring the count full.
On the next pitch, Inzana painted the outside corner for strike three as Brockway (1-0) held on for the win.
Serafini, who started on the mound and went 6 1/3 innings, had to exit the game after hitting the 100-pitch limit on a strikeout of Alex Fedus for the second out in the top of the seventh.
The senior allowed nine hits and five runs, four of them earned, while striking out five to secure the win on the mound for the Rovers.
“Tyler Serafini did a great job tonight on the hill,” Brockway head coach Terry Moore said. “Being out for the first time this season on a cold night he did a fantastic job and I’m proud of his effort.”
Serafini also played a key role in both of Brockway’s big innings at the plate, as they mustered up seven runs on the afternoon on just one hit.
Isaac Brock led of the game for ECC (1-2) with a single up the middle and later came in to score the game’s first run on a two-out double to right-center by Dan Wimer.
After an infield single by Fedus, Serafini forced Uberti to fly out to left field to leave runners stranded on the corners.
The Rovers quickly responded in the bottom half of the first, taking advantage of mistakes by the Crusaders to score three runs of their own.
Zane Puhala led things off, as he hit a grounder back to ECC starting pitcher Taylor Boland, who fired to first, but the throw got away from Fedus at first allowing Puhala to reach safely.
Dom Inzana followed with a walk, then Matthew Clark hit another grounder back to the mound, as Boland looked to cut off the lead runner at third, but his throw bounced in the dirt, allowing Brockway to load the bases with nobody out.
Serafini followed by drawing a bases-loaded walk to score Puhala and tie the game at one.
After strikeout, Ford drove a sacrifice fly to deep center field to score Dom Inzana, as Clayton Heckman, who courtesy ran for Clark, also came around to score on an error on the throw from center field to give the Rovers a 3-1 lead after one inning.
The Crusaders fought back in the top of the second, as Fritz reached on an infield single to third to start the frame, then Boland followed with a single up the middle to move Fritz to third, as Boland was able to advance to second on the throw from center field.
Tylor Herzing followed with ECC’s third straight single, driving a pitch to center field to score both Fritz and Boland to tie the game at three.
The game remained knotted at three into the fifth inning, before the Crusaders broke through with a pair of runs to retake the lead.
Hunter Cashmer looked to lead off the inning with a hit, as he hit a line drive into the hole at second, but Rovers second baseman Ben Glasl made a diving snag to rob him off a single.
Wimer followed by reaching on a hit by pitch, before being pinch run for by Mark Kraus, who stole second to get into scoring position.
Fedus then hit a hard grounder back to Serafini on the mound, but the pitcher’s throw sailed pass first base, allowing Kraus to come around and score the go-ahead run.
Jordan DePrator pinch ran for Fedus and was brought in on a single to center field by Uberti to bring the score to 5-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Just like the did in the first inning, the Rovers responded to falling behind with another three-run inning to go back in front by a run.
Also just like in the first, it was the top of the order to spark the offense, as Puhala and Dom Inzana got things started by each reaching on errors.
Clark then drew a hit by pitch to load the bases with nobody out, as Brockway once again used a key sacrifice fly to score a run.
This time it was Serafini, who drove a pitch deep to right to score Puhala and advance Inzana over to third.
Brockway may have only had one hit in the game, but it came at the best possible time, as Ford drove a two-out pitch to center field for a 2-RBI single to score Inzana and Heckman, who courtesy ran for Clark.
Despite having just one hit, Brockway was able to capitalize on six errors by the ECC defense and six walks by its pitchers.
“When we needed to put the ball in play we did,” Moore said. “We put runs on the board, whether its no hits or 10 hits, that’s what matters.”
The Rovers’ two sacrifice flies from Serafini and Ford proved to be big towards the outcome of the game.
“That’s something we work on practice in that situation,” Moore said of his teams sac flies. “We try to get the ball in the air to the outfield.”
“The guys came up clutch when they needed to and we manufactured runs when we needed to.”
Moore added that his team, led by its nine seniors, never quits and keeps battling and he was proud of their effort in the season opener.
The Rovers added an insurance run in the sixth, as Glasl led off with a walk and later came in to score when Dom Inzana reached on a fielder’s choice.
The Crusaders were then unable to capitalize on a bases-loaded opportunity in the seventh, as Brockway held on for the 7-5 victory.
ECC left nine runners on base in the loss, including the three in the seventh, as seven of those nine were left in scoring position.
The Crusaders struck out six times on the night, but five of those were looking and two ended innings with a runner on third base.
“When I look at the game, I’m incredibly happy about our hitting, but we let too many strikeouts to leave guys on base,” ECC head coach James Slay said.
“On a positive I thought our pitching came around and I think we’ve got a very good bullpen. It’s tough to lose on one hit when we had 10 ourselves, but I think there’s a lot to build on and we’re looking forward to the next game.
The Crusaders coach said his team knows what they need to work on defensively in order to avoid committing so many errors again.
“We’ve gotta know where to throw the ball and making those errors you’re not gonna win a ball game,” Slay said. “I think the guys understand what they need to work on and I’m still very optimistic about how are season looks, this still being march, there is a lot of baseball left for us to improve.”
Both teams have time to build towards their next games as they each return to action Monday, with Brockway hosting Johnsonburg and ECC facing St. Marys on the road.