Minutemen go one up on Black Diamonds
A day after relying on its pitching, Bushkill Township's high-powered offense was on display.
After squeaking by Franklin Township with a dramatic, 1-0 win to reach the Keystone Senior Babe Ruth Championship Series, the runs came in bunches for the Minutemen on Wednesday night.
Bushkill (10-7-1) pounded out 20 hits to earn a decisive 14-2 win over Panther Valley in the first game of a best of three series. All nine starters contributed in the win, with each player picking up at least one hit.
"They hit the baseball exceptionally well tonight," Panther Valley coach Chris West said. "You can't even defend against that.
"My starting pitcher (Jake) Kusko was throwing his best stuff and they hit it. (Jake) Szczecina came in and was throwing his best stuff and they hit it. Period. They hit us and they hit it where we weren't."
Bushkill broke it open in the top of the second, as Nate Bachert delivered a leadoff home run to start the inning. The Minutemen would bat around and put six runs on the board on the strength of seven hits to take an early, yet commanding, 6-0 lead.
The Minutemen would pile on in the fourth and fifth innings, scoring four runs in each to take a dominating 14-0 lead heading into the sixth.
Panther Valley's (9-8) best chance to make a comeback was in the bottom of the sixth, when Nate Hrebik drove in Zack King and Mark Williams with a two-run single to cut the deficit to 14-2. But the rally was too little, too late for the Black Diamonds.
"We had that slight, little bubble of opportunity late in the game and we didn't cash in at that moment in time," West said. "They hit and we didn't; there was no defense for it."
Bushkill starter Brandon Labar did his part to confound the Panther Valley hitters, notching three strikeouts and allowing three hits in his five innings of work.
Bushkill coach Tim Sutter credits the team's success to the solid play from the entire lineup.
"The bottom line is that everyone on this team has contributed," Sutter said. "From top to bottom, from our older kids to our younger kids, everybody contributes; everybody gets a long and it's just a positive environment.
"They enjoy what they're doing and they're having fun. They're just a pleasure to be a round and they're a great bunch of kids."
Sutter admits that while the victory may have come easy on this night, he'll make sure his team is ready to come back strong for game two to avoid a letdown.
"I'm expecting them (Panther Valley) to come back and be a totally different team tomorrow," Sutter said. "During the regular season, they beat us twice and they had to pull it out in the later innings.
"It's hard to come back from the deficit they started out with. I'm anticpipating tomorrow to be a whole different ballgame."
As is Sutter's counterpart.
"One of the things I preach to the kids is that it's hard to beat a team three times in a row," West said. "They got us. This was number three and they got us.
"Now we get back on our feet and take back homefield advantage tomorrow. We told them not to hand their heads because they deserve to be here and this is where you're supposed to be. There's only two teams left with the opportunity at the title and we're one of those two."
Bushkill 060 440 0 - 14 20 0
Panther Vy. 000 002 0 - 2 5 2
Labar, Strausser (6), J. Albert (6) and Bachert; Kusko, Szczecina (4) and Gibbs-Buss. W - Labar. L - Kusko. HR: Bushkill - Bachert (2nd, none on), McFarland (5th, none on).