With one swing of the bat, Wellington Concepcion brought clarity to a game filled with confusion.
Concepcion's grand slam in the top of the sixth gave Hazleton the breathing room it needed to hold off host Tamaqua 9-5 Friday night in the District 18 Little League 11-12 year-old winners' bracket semifinal at Bill Angst Stadium.
Hazleton advances to the winners' bracket final and will host Hazle Township/Tri-County, a 13-3 winner over Freeland, on Tuesday.
Tamaqua, which suffered its first loss after winning its first two games by a combined score of 23-3, will travel to the winner of today's Franklin Township at White Haven game on Monday in the losers' bracket.
The Hazletonians grabbed the early edge by pushing across four runs in a five-hit second frame, then withstood a Tamaqua rally that was curtailed in part by what can be called a "phantom out".
Tamaqua had plenty of opportunities, but starting hurler Kyle Rogers and reliever Concepcion combined to scatter eight hits and strand nine baserunners.
"Yes, we did," said Tamaqua manager Joe Coleman about the runners left on base. "We had scoring chances every time, but we hit the ball right at them a lot."
"It was a fun game," said Hazleton mentor Joe Downey. "Kyle's our money in the bank, and he pitched a nice game."
Tamaqua's Zack Coleman had a monster game at the plate, going 4-for-4 with two homers, a double and single and three RBI, but one of his clouts may not have had the impact it could have, due to the phantom out.
With Tamaqua trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth, Brandon Rex led off by reaching on an error. Dakota George walked and was replaced by pinch runner Hanna Perla. Russ Blaker doubled to left, scoring Rex to cut the deficit to 4-2 with none out.
The next batter, Owen Bates, hit a dribbler to first base and was thrown out. Perla, who was on third, hesitated while coming home and turned back to third, but Blaker was there already, and she was thrown out at the plate for a double play.
The Hazleton players excitedly left the field. However, Tamaqua did not protest the out count, and the umpires did not order Hazleton back on the field. Hazleton then scored an unearned run in the top of the fifth to make it 5-2.
Zack Coleman led off the next inning with a solo shot, which, had it occured in the fourth, could have tied the score at 4-4.
"We got snookered with two outs there, but nobody caught it, not even the umps, and we would have had a runner on third with Zack coming up," said the elder Coleman.
Tamaqua fought back within 5-4 after five, but Hazleton put it out of reach in the sixth. With two out, Randy Pindera and Alvin Terraro each singled, and Rogers was walked intentionally. Concepcion's mammoth shot into the trees over the right field fence sealed it.
Terraro, Concepcion and Pinera each had two hits. Blaker doubled twice and Bud Moyer singled twice to go with Zack Coleman's big game for Tamaqua.
"These kids have big hearts and they'll bounce back," said Joe Coleman. "I've seen the way they've played together for four years, and I wouldn't count them out."
Hazleton 040 104 - 9 9 3
Tamaqua 001 121 - 5 8 2
Rogers, Concepcion (6) and Swetz; Coleman, Hartung (3) and Moyer. W - Rogers; L - Coleman. HR - T:Coleman 2 (third inning, none on; fifth inning, none on); HT-Concepcion (sixth inning, three on).