BUTLER TOWNSHIP - Tamaqua Blue played like a hurricane on Sunday afternoon.
First came the initial onslaught, with heavy hitting and numbing pitching giving Tamaqua a quick 4-0 lead. Next came the eye, a lull from that earlier punishment. Then came the back wall, another pounding by the batters.
The result was an 8-4 win over Franklin Township for the District 18 10-11 Little League Tournament championship on the Valley East field.
Franklin held on for awhile, coming to within one in the third inning. But then a four-run fourth provided the margin of victory for the Big Blue.
It was the second meeting in two days for the teams. On Saturday, Franklin Township defeated Tamaqua Blue, 8-5, ending the Schuylkill team's hopes of marching through the District 18 tourney unbeaten.
The victory means Tamaqua moves onto Sectionals, meeting the Stroudsburg Nationals on Thursday in Franklin Township. Franklin, which is hosting the next round of play, was eliminated.
Tamaqua let its intentions be known right from the start with back-to-back home runs in the first: a two-run shot about 220 feet over the center field fence by Thaddeus Zuber followed by a solo blast on the next pitch that Zeke Wassell delivered over the center fielder.
A bases load walk accounted for the fourth run.
Big Blue starting pitcher Josh Inama pinned down Franklin in the first two innings, getting five strikeouts of the eight batters he faced.
Franklin wasn't about to just let its season blow by without putting up a fight. In the third, Johnny Herman hit a one out double and reached third on a steal. Then Collin Haupt whacked a double to bring Herman home. Next, Daniel Keer delivered a ball over the right field fence for a two run homer to pull Franklin to within 4-3.
Tamaqua put the game away in the bottom of the fourth. An outfield error let Casey Rother reach third. He then scored on a triple by Wassel. A passed ball let Wassel cross the plate. Ty Kistler hit a scorching double. Matt Weaver walked. Kistler and Weaver completed the journey home on a triple by Riley McHugh.
Tamaqua left runners stranded in every inning. The bags were loaded at the end of inning one, and for the game there were nine runners stranded in the five innings of play.
"We came out hitting the ball right away in the first inning," said head coach Charles Kistler. "We needed strikes and Josh Inama got them for us."
Kistler also praised the defense of his team, stating, "We just didn't make mistakes in the field."
He praised Franklin Township for forcing the final game and for coming back in yesterday's contest. "That's a good team," he said regarding Franklin.
Of Inama, the coach remarked, "Josh was on today. He actually had told his mom that he wanted to pitch a complete game."
He pitched 4 innings, giving up four runs and allowing seven hits before being relieved by Herman. Herman finished the game, giving up one hit in his 1 innings on the mound and striking out three.
Wassel went two for three, hitting a homer and triple. He also made it to first on a fielder's choice play and walked. He scored twice.
Ty Kistler and Randy McHugh also were two for three.
For Franklin, Herman was two for three with a double and single, and Nolan Wentz was two for three, but reaching base each time he batted. Wentz had two singles and got to first on an error.
Coach Ryan Wentz of Franklin Township said that on Saturday Tamaqua had started strong, scoring three runs in the top of the first. But Franklin came right back with five in the first.
"This time we didn't battle back," he said. "Nothing went our way. We made some mistakes and they didn't."
He said the fact that Franklin played four games in four days didn't help because it limited the pitching.
Although Wentz said he was proud of his whole team, he gave special mention to Keer. "Daniel Keer hit a home run and pitched a must game in the tournament," noting that Keer was the starter and the winning pitcher on Saturday. He proved to be our leader."
The coach added, "But everybody contributed."
Tamaqua Blue made a tornadic entry into the tournament last week, beating its first two oppenents by a combines score of 39-7.
Franklin Twp. 030 010 - 4 8 1
Tamaqua Blue 400 40x - 8 11 1
Colurita, Herman (4), Z. Wentz (6) and Wagner. Inama, Scherer (5) and Rother. W-Inama. L-Colurita. HR - Franklin Twp.: Keer (3rd, one on). Tamaqua: Rother (1st, one on), Wassel (1st, none on).
Franklin Township won an elimination game on Friday, beating Valley East, 7-6.
Franklin got quality pitching from Dalton Berger who went five innings to get the win. Daniel Keer got the save and also led the offensive attack with three hits. Nolan Wentz and Jonathan Herman picked up two hits apiece.
For Tamaqua, Zeke Wassel went three for three, including a first inning triple. Casey Rother had two singles.
Franklin Township beat Tamaqua to force a deciding game. Daniel Keer recorded the pitching win and struck out five. Gabe Wagner led Franklin offensively two hits and four RBIs.
Tamaqua Blue 302 000 - 5
Franklin Twp. 520 01x - 8
Rother, Zuber (1) and Inama; Keer, Colurita (5) and Wagner. W-Keer. L- Rother.