CLEARFIELD — Reigning champion Beech Creek brought the Clearfield Chiefs back down to earth Monday after they had breezed to two wins in the Pennsylvania American Legion Division I Region 7 Tournament.
Right-hander Ethan Watkins pitched eight shutout innings with the help of solid defense, Landon Breon wielded the big bat with three hits and five RBIs and Brandon Miller contributed a key two-run home run as the Crickets prevailed 7-4 in the winner’s bracket final between former Central Penn League rivals at the Lawrence Township Recreation Park.
Clearfield manager Sid Lansberry was disappointed the Chiefs, who returned to the Jefferson County League this year, didn’t get to Watkins until the ninth inning, especially since they had piled up 31 hits and 36 runs in wins over Blairsville and Hempfield East.
“The way we’ve been hitting the ball and then get shut down for eight innings, it’s a poor hitting performance even though he’s an outstanding pitcher,” Lansberry said. “We needed to be more aggressive. First-pitch strikes, we let a lot of them go.”
Thirteen, to be exact.
“It looked like we were surprised when he threw a strike,” Lansberry said. “As the game goes on and you realize he throws first-pitch strikes, you’ve gotta swing. I didn’t give a take sign all day. Not one.“
Chiefs’ ace Brandon Orsich kept the Crickets at bay until the fourth inning when Talon Falls one-hopped a double over the left center fence off his Penn State DuBois teammate and scored on a groundout by Breon.
Miller and Breon delivered the crushing blows in the next two frames, barreling up on fastballs for opposite-field two-run, homers to left.
Lansberry noted catcher Ty Bender said both pitches kind of tailed over the middle of the plate.
“Brandon was trying to throw them up and in,” Lansberry said. “Just two mistakes, that’s all. Other than that, he didn’t pitch badly.”
Beech Creek (18-2) tacked on two runs in the eighth inning, Breon going opposite field again with a double to deep left center that chased home Falls and Asher Corl after they got aboard with their second hits.
Those turned out to be pretty important when the Chiefs staged a rally sparked by Seth Bumbarger’s booming home run to left center.
With one out, Bender ripped a double to center and Alec Graham bounced a single up the middle.
Watkins, who struck out three and walked two, got a pop-up and what appeared to be a game-ending grounder by Orsich, but it was bobbled as Bender scored.
Then, Nate Barr slapped a single through the right side to load the bases, and Harrison Peacock came through with a clutch two-run single through the box.
That brought the potential tying run to the plate, but A.J. Smith relieved and earned a save via a game-ending forceout.
The Crickets, who continued to build momentum toward a third region title in a row after squeaking past Jefferson County League champ Brookville/Punxsutawney 7-6 in their opener, totaled 12 hits off Orsich, with Toner Corl and Evan Prough also banging out two apiece.
“We waited too long and we took too many pitches,” Lansberry summed up the Chiefs’ eighth loss in 19 games. “Give them credit. Their pitcher was outstanding and they made all the plays. They’re excellent defensive players. There were a lot of ground balls that I thought would get through that didn’t get through.
“That’s a sign of a good team.”
Clearfield will try to bounce back against Claysburg in an 11 a.m. elimination game Tuesday, while Beech Creek must contend with one-loss Hempfield East at 2 p.m.
The championship game is booked for Wednesday at 11 a.m.
CLEARFIELD — 4
Thayne Morgan 3b 3000, Harrison Peacock 3b 3010, Reese Wilson cf 5000, Seth Bumbarger 1b 4111, Eli Glass ss 3010, Ty Bender c 4110, Bryce Timko rf 3000, Alec Graham rf 1010, Zane Morgan pr 0100, Jake Sorbera lf 2000, Allan Myers ph 1000, Tommy Hazel lf 1000, Brandon Orsich p 4120, Justin Fedder 2b 2000, Nate Barr 2b 2010. TOTALS: 36 4 8 3.
BEECH CREEK — 7
Brandon Miller cf 4112, Toner Corl ss 4020, Talon Falls 3b 4220, Asher Corl c 3120, Wyatt och 1b 4100, Landon Breon dh 4135, Mitch Smith lf 3000, Trevor Hanna ph-2b 1000, Zach Eck rf 3000, Conner Bauman ph-lf 1000, Evan Prough 2b-rf 3120. TOTALS: 34 7 12 7.
Score by Innings
Clearfield 000 000 004 – 4 8 0
Beech Creek 000 122 02x – 7 12 1
E – Hanna. DP – Clearfield 1 (T. Morgan, Fedder and Bumbarger). LOB – Clearfield 7; Beech Creek 4. 2B – Bender; Falls, Breon. HR – Bumbarger (1); Miller, Breon. SB – T. Morgan.
Clearfield – Orsich 8 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 2 K.
Beech Creek – Ethan Watkins 8-2/3 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K; A.J. Smith 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K.
WP – Watkins 1.
W – Watkins. L – Orsich (3-2). Sv – Smith.
Umpires – Dave Urbanick (plate) and Scott Viehdorfer (bases).