CURWENSVILLE — The DuBois American Legion baseball team used a huge nine-run fourth inning to break open a scoreless game against Curwensville Monday on its way to a 12-3 victory at Sherman Field in the season opener for both squads.
DuBois’ Eric Schneider and Curwensville’s Noah VonGuden each put up zeroes through three innings, with Schneider allowing four hits and VonGunden just one entering the fourth.
That pitchers’ duel came to a screeching halt in the top of the fourth as DuBois used some patience at the plate — and some timely hits to break the game wide open with nine runs. DuBois drew five walks and collected four hits as it batted around in the frame.
That big inning, coupled with two more runs in the fifth, put DuBois on the verge of a mercy-rule victory. However, Curwensville responded with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to extend the game before DuBois eventually came away with the 12-4 victory.
“It was a good first win for these guys,” said DuBois co-manager Chuck Ferra. “Opposed to last year, this is a really young team, so a lot of these guys really haven’t done a lot since our (DuBois’) high school season ended. It took a while to get the bats going, but once they did, they hit the ball well.
“It was a good team win. We got contributions from everybody, which was awesome.”
DuBois’ decisive top of the fourth started when Alex Pasternak drew a one-out walk off VonGunden and was replaced by pinch-runner Robbie Martini. Justin Swauger followed with a walk of his own, which ended VonGunden’s day on the mound.
Jake McCracken came on in relief and walked the first batter he faced, Chase Husted, to load the bases. McCracken then got a ground ball off the bat of pinch-hitter Zach Shilala, but the throw home by second baseman Jake Mullins was in the dirt and catcher Avery Francisco couldn’t come up with it. Martini scored on the throwing error.
Garrett Starr followed with a two-run single to left to put DuBois up 3-0. Kenny Garvey then walked to load the bases for shortstop VonGuden cut down a run at home on a grounder for the second out.
Curwensville couldn’t get out of the inning though, as a two-run double by Schneider and run-scoring single by Dylan McCluskey quickly made it 6-0. A throwing error to the plate on McCluskey’s hit brought home DuBois’ seventh run.
DuBois wasn’t finished though, as Martini smacked a two-run single two batters later to cap the nine-run fourth.
“Garrett got a big hit for us in that inning,” said Ferra. “And, Robbie Martini hasn’t played in over a year, but he came in a tough situation there. I had him pinch-run for Al (Pasternak) and he scored for us, then he got a pinch-hit at-bat and got a big hit for us. He was kind of a sparkpl-ug for us there in that inning.”
Curwensville went to Hunter Hipps on the mound following Martini’s clutch hit, and the lefty recorded a strikeout to finally end the inning.
Curwensville then put two on with one out in the bottom half of the inning against Schneider.
Hipps led off the inning with a single, while Mullins walked with one out. However, Schneider got back-to-back outs to end the inning — and his day of the mound. The DuBois righty tossed four scoreless innings to get the win. He allowed five hits while striking out six and walking two.
DuBois tacked on two more runs in the fifth.
Husted led off the inning with an infield single and took second on a groundout. He went to third on an error and scored on a second Curwensville error in the inning. Two batters later Schneider hit a sacrifice fly to center to make it 11-0 and put DuBois on the verge of a mercy-rule victory.
However, Curwensville didn’t go down without a fight and plated three runs in the bottom of the fifth to extend the game.
DuBois reliever McCluskey retired the first two hitters of the inning before Caullin Reed reached on a two-out error. Fransciso followed with a single, while McCracken drew a walk to load the bases.
That brought Hipps to the plate, and he hammered a double the other way over the left fielder’s head to clear the bases and make it 11-3. Hipps and Francisco were the lone players on either team with two hits on the day.
DuBois got one of those runs back in the sixth.
Jordan Frano led off the inning with an infield single that bounced off the first-base bag, while Pasternak followed with a single to right. Frano scored three batters later when Heath Means reached on a two-out infield single to set the eventual final at 12-3.
McCluskey tossed a scoreless bottom of the sixth, while Curwensville’s Christian Bakaysa and DuBois’ Starr each put zeroes in the seventh to finish off the game.
“We gave then a couple exra outs in that big inning, and I saw a little bit of rust,” said Curwensville manager Isaac Graham. “A lot of guys haven’t been on the field much since high school. They (DuBois) are a quality team though.
“I think we’re both fairly young, and I think they are a lot younger than they were last year. I think we’re a competitive bunch here, but I give them credit. Their pitchers threw well and they played some good defense.
“We showed some pride in that inning (bottom of 4th) and we had some really good at-bats, and Hunter came up with a really nice hit there and cleared the bases. Basically, I look at that as free baseball. We could have folded and went home after five. But, we got two extra innings and gained some experience, and overall, I’m happy with my guys today.”
Both teams return to action Wednesday.
DuBois hosts Post 62 (Punxsutawney/Brookville), while Curwensville entertains Clearfield.