CURWENSVILLE –Great players make great plays in critical moments, and the Curwensville Golden Tide baseball squad has made some great plays thus far in the 2019 season. But, have faltered, and have wondered when that first win would come. On Thursday afternoon, they welcomed in the Brockway Rovers for their second consecutive home game, and were prepared for a tight game.
The game not only was tight, but couldn’t be decided in regulation. Both squads battled offensively and defensively to a draw. That was until one swing of the bat by senior Avery Francisco closed it out in extra innings for a dramatic 5-2 walk-off for the Tide, giving the home team their first victory on the season.
Head coach Tom Harzinski was ecstatic afterwards, greeting his players in unison before coming over to speak, stating, “This one is sweet. Both teams played incredible both offensively and defensively, and it was a battle.
“That’s what I just kept telling them when it kept getting later in the game, ‘keep playing,’ and we did.”
Francisco got the start on the mound for the Tide, and made a strong effort in four innings of work, striking out five. His teammates got things going in the bottom of the second inning when Matt Brown, making his first start at third base, hammered an RBI-single to right field that brought Jake McCracken to the plate.
One inning later, a ground out by Jake Mullins was worth the sacrifice as Cole Bressler made it home, giving the Tide the 2-0 advantage after three innings.
In the top of the fourth, the Rovers evened things up. Following a fly out by Connor Ford, Matthew Clark walked to get a runner in position. One batter later, Tyler Serafini singled into center field, putting runners on first and second. Clark then made it home on the first error of the game by Curwensville, and Serafini followed suit. Curwensville got out of the inning with the score knotted at two runs a piece, but it was not without a bit of surprise, and awareness.
With the bases loaded, it appeared that when starting pitcher Tino Inzana was struck in the side, and after what appeared to be a third run to the plate, Harzinski was ready to call for a pitching change. But, one of his players was observant as the runner went down the baseline and picked up the bat. However, in the process, the runner failed to do one important aspect: touch home.
The coaches appealed the call and the home plate umpire confirmed that the Brockway runner did not touch home, as Harzinski then let his relief pitcher, Jeremiah Farley, throw the ball to catcher Chase Graham who stepped on the plate to declare the third out. That mistake cost Brockway greatly in the inning, as the sides headed to the bottom half of the inning all tied up.
At that point, the game became a dual on the mound and on defense.
Farley, who was sporting a protective face mask, took over and proved he could be sensational on the mound when called upon. Two days ago, he was in agony on the field after being struck in the face with a swift liner down the third base line, ultimately breaking his orbital bone just below his left eye. Still sporting a shiner, the mask did not seem to bother him when he was launching fastballs over the plate. He ultimately went the remaining six innings, striking out four and giving up no runs.
The opposition was dealing just as much, as Inzana was sailing along for virtually the entire game, going six and two-thirds innings, giving up two runs but striking out seven. He would not get the decision on this day, however.
As the game drew into the eighth inning, it was not without drama for Curwensville as Farley was in a few tough situations. In the ninth, he found himself with runners on second and third with two outs, and needing a lot of help. But, Dominic Inzana grounded out to second to save the inning. In the tenth, almost an exact similar situation, as Clark and Serafini were on second and third with only one out on the board. Clark looked as though he was ready to come home on a suicide squeeze, but a foul ball and then a strikeout from Matthew Holt and a fly out from Tino Inzana ended the inning.
Relief pitcher Marcus Copelli took over with one out remaining in the seventh inning, and was having a strong afternoon that became a strong evening.
In the tenth, he was doing the same, as Matt Brown flew out to center. Following Bressler’s single, he would be called out on a fielder’s choice that held Noah Von Gunden at first. He then moved to second on a stolen base as he barely beat the throw. Mullins then walked putting runners on first and second.
The stage was set, as Francisco came to the plate. Harzinski told his senior to relax, be patient, and let it be something he wanted. Two outs on the board, and darkness still setting in, and knowing he was entering the at-bat just 1-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, Francisco loaded up.
One pitch from Copelli was in the zone, and Francisco channeled all the power he had for the swing. His bat connected, and he watched as it went deep to the fence in left field. Ford chased it as long as he could, but that swing saw the ball go right over the fence, and the Tide exited the dugout to welcome not one, not two, but three runs home as Francisco walked off with the biggest hit of the young season, a three-run homer, to give Curwensville an extra inning victory in thrilling fashion.
The walk-off gave Farley his first win on the season, while handed Copelli his first loss.
“We kept telling them, ‘they can’t win if they don’t score,’ and Farley did a great job shutting them down. Avery, that was clutch,” Harzinski said. “I didn’t know it went over the fence. I just knew it was over the fielder’s head.
“It was a great team win. All 17 of our players contributed today, and that says something about our team. We needed to get a win, and like I told them out there, the sky’s the limit now. We have a good team here, and if we believe in ourselves, we’ll be just fine.”
Curwensville (1-3) has some time to enjoy the win before they return to action, as they will host their third consecutive game on Tuesday. The Harmony Owls will be the opposition, with a 4:15 p.m. first pitch.
SCORE BY INNING
Brockway 000 200 000 0 – 2 6 1
Curwensville 011 000 000 3 – 5 5 4
Brockway – 2
Puhala-CF 5020, D. Inzana-C 5000, Ford-3B 4010, Clark-1B 3000, Heckman-1B 0100, Serafini-SS 5130, Holt-DH 5000, T. Inzana-P/RF 4000, Porrin-LF 2000, Grecco-PH 1000, Glasl-2B 4000, Allenbaugh-PR 0000. TOTALS 38 2 6 0.
Curwensville – 5
Von Gunden-2B 5100, Mullins-SS 4101, Stiles-PR 0000, Francisco-P/RF 5123, McCracken-CF 3100, Evans-1B 3010, Irwin-1B 0000, Bakaysa-LF 3000, Wilson-EH/DH 1000, Brown-3B 4011, Heitsenreather-DH 2000, Bressler-RF 1100, Farley-P 3010, Vance-PR 0000. TOTALS 34 5 5 5.
E: McClintick/Brown-3, Francisco, Mullins. 2B: Serafini. HR: Francisco. SAC: Porrin/Evans. SB: Puhala/Francisco, VonGunden, CS: Ford. LOB: Brockway – 11, Curwensville – 5.
Brockway: T. Inzana-6.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 7 SO, 2 BB; Copelli-3 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 SO, 2 BB.
Curwensville: Francisco-4 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 5 SO, 2 BB; Farley-6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 SO, 1 BB.
WP-Farley (1-0), LP-Copelli (0-1)
Golden Tide Scoreboard:
Date Opponent Score Record
3/22 Deer Lakes @ S. Carolina 5 – 9 0 – 1
3/23 Lakeview @ S. Carolina 4 – 9 0 – 2
3/26 DUBOIS CENTRAL CATH. 2 – 8 0 – 3
3/28 BROCKWAY 5-2, 10 inn. 1 – 3
4/04 @ Clearfield
4/08 ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC
4/10 @ Kane
4/12 @ Mo Valley
4/15 @ West Branch
4/16 @ Punxsutawney
4/18 @ Johnsonburg
4/22 @ Elk County Catholic
4/23 @ DuBois Central Catholic
4/25 @ Brockway
5/06 WEST BRANCH