CONYNGHAM VALLEY When you're on, you're on.
Valley West used a perfect blend of methodical offense and dominant pitching en route to a 10-1 win over Lansford in the winner's bracket championship of the 11-12-year-old District 18 Little League All-Star Tournament.
Valley West leadoff hitter Ryan Wolk got the team on the board early, launching a solo home run on the second pitch he saw to give the team a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
That would hold up until the third, when Lansford's Mason Goida answered with a solo shot of his own to right field to tie the contest.
But Valley West's patient offense came alive in the bottom of the third and blew the game open, scoring five runs on five hits to take a commanding 6-1 lead and knock Lansford starter Ronnie Distler out of the game.
"The first two innings, we were a little hesitant because we haven't really seen many left-handed pitchers in this tournament," Valley West coach Curtis Pick said of facing Distler. "So we actually told them to sit back on the ball and wait a little bit longer, then they started putting the barrel on the ball."
The home team would tack on another run in the fourth, when starter Chic DeGaetano would help his own cause by blasting a solo homer over the centerfield wall for a 7-1 advantage. Another three runs would score in the fifth to put the game even further out of reach.
While the offense was rolling and scoring runs at will, DeGaetano took care of business on the mound by throwing 63 of his 77 pitches for strikes, notching 12 strikeouts in six innings of work.
"He's our best pitcher and he was in a groove tonight," Pick said of DeGaetano. "Everybody backs up Chic and he picked this whole team up with his performance tonight.
"That solo home run was his first of this whole tournament, but he can hit home runs, too. His bat is starting to come around and you saw what he could do on the mound tonight. He can be dominant when he's on, and tonight he was."
The win gives the team momentum for a showdown this coming Sunday with an opponent that's yet to be determined. The uncertainty is something that doesn't bother Pick.
"It's just one game at a time; one game left on Sunday," said Pick. "It doesn't matter who we're playing because we're on a roll right now. We're a very confident team and we're playing very good baseball right now."
Lansford coach Tim Goida knew the Valley West squad had the potential to breakout, but felt his team may have been stunned after falling behind so quickly.
"We knew this team was good and we knew they could hit," said Goida. "I think our team got a little down on themselves after falling behind in the third inning.
"Even in those first two innings, we were still hitting the ball and putting it in play. But this is the best pitcher we've seen all year, hands-down. He was dominant and right around the plate and kept our guys off balance."
Even after the loss, Goida doesn't see the need to hit the panic button before Friday's contest against either Tamaqua or Towamensing Township.
"We're going to stay with the same routine that got us here," said Goida. "The kids had one tough loss and I think they were caught by surprise. If we get another chance (against Valley West), I think it's going to be a better game."
Lansford 001 000 - 1 3 2
Valley West 105 13x - 10 10 0
Distler, Prudente (3) and M. Goida; DeGaetano and Wolk. W - DeGaetano. L - Distler. HR: Lansford - M. Goida (3rd, none on); Valley West - Wolk (1st, none on), DeGaetano (4th, none on).