DuBOIS — As its always said, if its not broken, don’t fix it.
That is certainly the case for the Elk-McKean Senior League All-Stars, as they stuck to their formula on the biggest stage in the state.
Elk-McKean manager Casey Zimmerman continually stresses the importance of playing team baseball, which his team did on the way to claiming the title with an 8-3 victory over Hollidaysburg in the Pennsylvania State Championship game at Showers Field Sunday afternoon.
“The recipe continues to work as long as everybody does their part,” Zimmerman said.
Elk-McKean made a resounding statement in the tournament, outscoring its four opponents by a combined score of 27-12 to return to the East Regional.
While its not the exact same line up, the core of this year’s Elk-McKean squad is no stranger to the big stage.
Last year, at the Junior League level, 11 of the 14 players on this season’s squad were part of the team that won the state title as well as the East Regional tournament on the way to competing at the World Series in Taylor, Mich.
From the opening at-bat of Sunday’s Senior League State title game, it was evident which team was more comfortable with the stage.
Elk-McKean, playing as the away team, took advantage of three errors to jump out to a big lead early, which it never relinquished the rest of the afternoon.
Camron Marciniak led the game off with what appeared to be a routine ground ball to second, but a wild throw allowed him to reach safely and start the big inning.
Aiden Zimmerman followed by singling down the left-field line to put two runners on before a fly out in foul territory resulted in the first out.
Carson Whiteman then hit a grounder to second, as it appeared Hollidaysburg was looking to force Zimmerman out at second on the play.
Instead, the ball was bobbled allowing all three base runners to reach safely to load the bases with still just one out in the inning.
Kaden Dennis pushed the game’s first run across by drawing a bases-loaded walk to bring home Marciniak.
Next up was Domenic Allegretto, who beat out a throw from short for an infield single that allowed Zimmerman to score.
The throw was was off target and sailed into foul territory, allowing Whiteman to score and Dennis to advance to third.
Dalton Stahli brought home the final run of the inning, laying down a sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher, as Dennis took off for home once the throw to first was made to score the fourth run of the frame.
Hollidaysburg battled back in the bottom of the inning, scoring two runs on four hits to cut the deficit in half.
Rocco Grassi started the rally with a one-out single before scoring when Bryce Martellacci followed with a triple.
Martellaci then scored the second run of the frame on a sac fly off the bay of Tyler Faber.
Hollidaysburg trimmed the deficit to one in the bottom of the third when Caleb Jandora reached on a one-out infield single before a Landon Perry double down the right-field line brought him in to score.
Elk-McKean responded in the next half inning by putting up its second four spot of the day to take a commanding five-run lead.
Ethan Wells led off with a double to left before Luke Zimmerman singled to put runners on the corners with no outs.
Marciniak then drew a walk to load the bases, as Aiden Zimmerman followed by delivering a two-RBI single to score Wells and Luke Zimmerman.
Morris then hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Marciniak, while Aiden Zimmerman was thrown out attempting to advance to third for the second out of the inning.
Whiteman then started a two-out rally by reaching on a hit by pitch before Dennis walked to put an end to Hollidaysburg starter Martellacci’s day on the mound.
Perry then took over for the home side, as he walked the first two batters he faced in Allegretto and Stahli to bring Whiteman in to score the fourth run of the inning to bring the score to 8-4.
After allowing three runs on eight hits over the first three innings of the game, Aiden Zimmerman allowed just one hit, a single in the fourth, and no runs over the final four innings to finish off the complete game.
Aiden Zimmerman finished the game with three runs allowed on nine hits over seven innings while not recording any walks or strikeouts to pick up the win on the mound while also going 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored at the plate.
“I’m extremely proud of the way the boys played today, that was a good hitting team (Hollidaysburg) and after the first inning we had to go back and think what approach we were gonna take as far as how we pitched to them,” Casey Zimmerman said.
Without any strikeouts or walks, the Elk-McKean defense was forced into action throughout the game.
Like they had all tournament, they delivered, with several key defensive plays all around the infield and outfield.
“Our defense was spot on today and I honestly don’t think there’s a better defense in the county,” Casey Zimmerman said.
In its four games in the State tournament, Elk-McKean committed just two errors, one in Thursday’s win over Pennridge and another in Friday’s victory over Upper Moreland in the winners’ bracket final.
“We’re a very young team and at the end of the game I’m talking to the kids and I’m getting emotional because I don’t know if they understand what they’re accomplishing right now,” Casey Zimmerman said.
“They’re like family to me and I’m just ready to go to the next level and play some ball.”
Elk-McKean will now represent Pennsylvania in the East Region tournament in Bangor, Maine as it will begin play Thursday against Delaware at 2 p.m.