Old Forge’s Dom Avvisato rounds third base during the Blue Devils loss to Muncy on Monday at Connell Park in Scranton.photo by angela Ceccarelli
Above, Old Forge’s Tony Goodall delivers a pitch to the plate during the Blue Devils loss to Muncy in the first round of the PIAA Class 1A Championships. Below, Mario Martinelli takes a lead off first base for Old Forge.photos by angela ceccarelli
Old Forge had plenty of opportunities.
It’s what the five-time District 2 Class A champion Blue Devils have gotten accustomed to. Get on base. Scratch out some runs playing small-ball. Then blast a big hit to break things open.
Unfortunately on Monday afternoon at Connell Park in Scranton, the big hit never came for Old Forge.
Despite having six guys in the batting order boasting a batting average of .310 or better the Blue Devils failed to capitalize on many opportunities as they stranded 12 runners on the base paths in falling to District 4 champion Muncy, 8-3, in the opening round of the PIAA Class 1A Baseball Tournament. Old Forge finished its season at 14-4. Muncy won on Thursday to advance to Monday’s PIAA Eastern Final.
“You have to give them credit; they swung the bats well and put the ball in play,” said first-year Old Forge manager Tony DiMattia. “When we loaded the bases with no out against that lefty of theirs, he followed with two strikeouts and a pop out to end the inning.
“We had our chances. We had base runners all over the place; we just didn’t get that solid hit to drive them in.”
Blue Devils ace Tony Goodall struggled with his control early as he hits three batters and walked two in the first two innings. The Indians were only able to score one run despite putting six guys on base early as Goodall escaped both one-out situations by getting a strikeout and inducing a fly ball.
But Muncy got to Goodall for two unearned runs in the third after the leadoff batter reached on an error before two one-out singles made the score 3-0 heading to the bottom of the third.
Needing a spark on offense after two of three Old Forge runners in the first two innings were wiped out by base-running mistakes, Goodall took matters into his own hands. The senior connected on his team-leading fourth home run, a one-out solo shot over the right field fence, to get the Blue Devils within 3-1.
“That felt good,” said Goodall. “We needed that since our offense failed in cash in on some opportunities.”
Muncy answered back in the fifth after Old Forge failed to score in the bottom of the fourth despite have four batters reach base on two singles, a walk, and a hit batsman. The Blue Devils had a runner throw out at third before loading the bases for the first of three different times in the game.
The Indians fifth started with a single and a walk, before a one-out error in the infield allowed another unearned run to score from third - increasing the Muncy lead to 4-1 after Goodall struck out the final two batters with runners at second and third.
Old Forge got back into the game in the bottom of the fifth as Mario Martinelli led off with a single, and Michael Long followed by drawing a walk. The two then each moved up a base with Connor Fultz at the plate before Martinelli scored on an RBI groundout by the Blue Devils senior shortstop.
Long had moved to third on the groundout before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Dave Argust to get Old Forge within 4-3.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, another costly fielding error paid dividends as the Indians were able to tack on three more runs in the top half of the sixth highlighted on a two-run RBI double by Brendon Bonnell which was mishandled in left allowing Bonnell to take third. Dawson Fox capped off the inning with a sacrifice fly scoring Bonnell from third as the Indians increased their lead 7-3.
Momentum had switched back to Muncy after its three-run sixth, but Old Forge was not ready to lie down.
Senior catcher Gary Puckett led off the inning by launching a double to deep center off southpaw reliever Skylar Edner. Chris Talipski followed with a walk, and Goodall bunted for a single when the Indians failed to cover first, loading the bases with no outs and the top of the order due up for the Blue Devils.
But Edner struck out lefthanders Martinelli and Long before inducing Fultz to pop-up to first as Old Forge failed to capitalize with the bases load for the second time in the game..
“That doesn’t happen often,” said DiMattia. “That pitcher put himself in that bases-loaded jam and he got himself out of it.”
Muncy added another run in the seventh off of reliever Dave Chromey to push its lead to 8-3, but the Blue Devils had one last shot.
Trailing by five, freshman Steve Mascaro smacked a two-out single to center before Puckett drew a walk and Talipski singled to load the bases once again for Old Forge. However, Muncy was able to get the final out to end another memorable season for the Blue Devils.
“These seniors have won a lot of medals, and I told them to look back in a few years at their accomplishments and feel proud,” DiMattia said.
Martinelli led the Old Forge offense with three hits, and Argust, Goodall and Dom Avvisato each added two hits.
Puckett reached base three times for the Blue Devils, including his leadoff double in the sixth.
Goodall was charged with the loss despite allowing just two earned runs on six hits, three walks and four hit batsmen in 5.1 innings of work. He did strike out seven Indians in his final career start.
Dispatch staff writer Rick Notari contributed to this report.