HAZLE TOWNSHIP - After rallying in dramatic fashion to take the lead in the top of the sixth, Tamaqua saw its District 18 Little League 11-12 year-old title hopes fade just as suddenly.
John Woitko raced home on a wild pitch with the winning run in the bottom of the inning to give host Hazle Township/Tri-County a 5-4 victory and the 11-12 crown Sunday evening.
Hazle Township/Tri-County, which swept through the double elimination tournament unbeaten, advances to Section 6 play, which will be hosted later this week by District 20, either Lehigh or Pennridge Little League.
Tamaqua had reeled off three straight wins since losing to Hazleton 9-5 on July 2 to emerge from the losers' bracket and appeared poised to hand HT-TC its first loss and force a deciding game for the title.
HT/TC's Dante Biasi took a 3-2 lead into the top of the sixth, but he had thrown 79 pitched entering the frame. After recording a strikeout for the first out, Biasi ran a 1-2 count on Owen Bates.
Bates fouled off two straight pitches before reaching out and belting the next delivery over the right field fence to tie the game at 3-3.
That was Biasi's 88th and final pitch, as he was over the 85 pitch limit. Bobby Platunis came on in relief, but Jon Hadesty singled and Nick Clemson reached on an error, giving Tamaqua runners on second and third. Dakota George then doubled, with pinch runner Dillon George scoring, to give Tamaqua a 4-3 edge.
Russ Blaker was safe on a fielder's choice when Clemson was able to dive safely back to third base on the grounder to third. With the bases loaded, Bobby Planutis got a strikeout but hit his 20th pitch and and was removed for Eddie Bielen, giving HT/TC the option to pitch Planutis on Monday if a final game would be needed.
Bielen got Zach Coleman on a hard line drive to left for the third out. Tamaqua was back in front but HT/TC limited the damage.
In the fifth, Tamaqua had lifted starting hurler Matt Minchhoff, who had thrown 75 pitches for Blaker, who tossed a scoreless inning. In the sixth, however, Brian Minzola led off with a single, and Bobby Giranda's hard-hit grounder to second took a big hop and rolled all the way to the fence for a double, plating Minzola with the tying running.
Woitko reentered as a pinch runner. Zach Coleman came on in relief, but an errant delivery had Woitko touch the plate to end it.
"We gutted it out," said HT/TC Manager Marty Biasi. "I'm not going to say this was our 'A' game, but we did what we had to do."
Tamaqua took a 1-0 lead in the first when Zach Coleman singled and scored on an errant pick-off attempt. HT/TC tied it in the bottom half when Dante Biasi doubled to left, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on Bielen's grounder to short.
In the third, a Minchhoff double, an error off the bat of Connor Hartung and Bud Moyer's fielder's choice put Tamaqua back on top 2-1, but in the fourth, a single by Shane Planutis and a walk to Minzola, plus a two-run error, had HT/TC up 3-2.
"It was a good game, and both teams played their hearts out," said Tamaqua Manager Joe Coleman. "My hat's off to them"
Dakota George, who hit his head when he ran into the fence running down Giranda's double, was taken by ambulance for treatment of his injury after the game.
Tamaqua 101 002 - 4 5 1
HTTC 100 202 - 5 5 6
Minchhoff, Blaker (5), Coleman (6) and Moyer; Biasi, B. Planutis (6), Bielen (6) and Porpiglia, S. Planutis (6). W - Bielen; L - Blaker. HR: T-Bates (sixth inning, none on).