Eric Skrincovsky admitted he was a bit anxious at the plate.
And who could blame him?
With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning of a tie game in the Carbon County Junior Babe Ruth championship contest, any batter would be facing some nerves.
After swinging and missing at the first pitch, Skrincovsky settled down. He lined the next offering over a drawn-in outfield to knock in the game-winning run and give the top-seeded Franklin Township Falcons an exciting 6-5 victory over the Jim Thorpe Bruins.
"My coaches were just telling me that now was my time to come up big," said Skrincovsky, who had two hits and knocked in three run in the title game. "This is my first experience in the playoffs and championship, and I'll remember this forever.
"I was looking bottom of the zone ... and that was my pitch to drive. I knew the first pitch probably wasn't going to be a strike but I was just too anxious. But I calmed down and just drove the ball the way I knew how to."
The Bruins, in search of their fourth straight championship, actually trailed 5-4 heading into the seventh and were down to their final out. But an error and a looping single to shallow right by Ryan McCollough chased home the tying run.
All that did, though, was set up up the dramatic ending for the Falcons (15-2).
Ben Cordova, who went the distance on the mound to gain the pitching win, lined a triple to right-center. Jim Thorpe elected to intentionally walk the next two hitters (Wyatt Clements and Joe Heery) to set up a force. Skrincovsky foiled the strategy with his line drive hit to right.
"I knew having my 2-3-4 hitters up and with how consistent they've been this season that the odds were in our favor to score," said Falcon manager Glenn Hibbler. "And they pulled through exactly how I wanted it to. It worked out with Cordova, that hit was huge ... Skrincovsky was just phenominal tonight. He came up big for us today."
"We pulled everbody in because we knew a fly to the outfield would score the run," said Bruin mentor Eric Burkhart. "That's why we had everybody up. We were hoping for a grounder or something shallow but it didn't work out. It's the risk you take."
The Falcons, who fell to the Bruins (15-3) in the title game a year ago, got the early jump on their rivals in the opening inning when Heery doubled in a pair of runs. Skrincovsky upped the lead to 3-0 in the third when his sinking liner to center dropped to bring in Clements, who had doubled.
Thorpe, however, battled back with three runs in the fourth. The Bruins bunched four hits together to tie the contest at 3-3. Owen Snisky's single chased home the first run while the second scored on a wild pitch. James O'Toole later delivered an RBI single through the shortstop hole for the final run of the frame.
"The kids never let themselves get down," said Burkhart. "They cheer each other on, listen to their coaches, and did what they had to to come back. We're proud of them."
Burkhart was even prouder an inning later when his team grabbled the lead. McCollough singled and eventually came around on an error.
The advantage didn't last long, though, in this back-and-forth battle. Taylor David opened the home fifth with a bad-hop single and moved up on a wild pitch. After Bruin starting pitcher Jordan McElmoyle struck out the next batter, an intenional walk to Clements and a hit batter loaded the bases.
A passed ball allowed David to race in with the tying run while Skrincovsky's deep fly to center chased home the go-ahead tally.
"I knew this team that we've put together was the team that was built to win this game," said Hibbler. "They have a lot of heart and they showed it. They showed it all season. It was very well deserved for our guys.
"We fell victim to them last year and lost 8-7 (in the championship game) so we were hungry and we were determined for them not to make it four straight."
JT Bruins 000 310 1 - 5 8 1
FT Falcons 201 020 1 - 6 9 2
McElmoyle, Pompa (7) and Snisky; Cordova and Clements. W - Cordova. L - Pompa.