All that separated Nick Hussey and a no-hitter was a couple of inches, but the gap between Warren Post 135 and the rest of the field in the District Junior Legion tournament was just a little bit bigger.
Hussey was dominant over seven innings on Sunday as Post 135 beat South County 3-0 to put the finishing touches on its district championship.
Pitching has been a major story for Post 135 this season, as its top four hurlers – Hussey, Ryan Rafalski, Mitch Grosch and Tyler Gustafson have allowed just six earned runs all season.
On Sunday, Hussey was in command from the get-go. He struck out 12 and the lone hit was a line drive in the seventh inning with one out off the bat of Alex Jarrett that just ticked off the glove of a leaping Rafalski.
He faced the minimum in five of seven innings and at one point retired 12 in a row.
Offensively, it wasn’t the best day for a team that has swung the bat extremely well, but they strung together enough hits to score three runs, which proved to be more than enough.
In the second inning, James Swanson led off with a single to right, moved to second on a sacrifice from Ryan Arnold and scored on Gustafson’s RBI single.
Post 135 struck again in the third, with Rafalski drawing a one out walk and, after a Grosch single, Hussey brought Rafalski in with an RBI base hit. Hussey was thrown out trying to advance to second base, but the damage was done.
On the mound, Hussey cruised through the middle innings. He struck out the side on 12 pitches in the third and struck out three more South County (Fort LeBoeuf/Waterford, Union City areas) hitters in the fourth and fifth innings while also inducing a couple of weak groundouts and a pop out.
South County pitcher Keegan Hornaman also threw a complete game, scattering eight hits.
Post 135 tacked on an insurance run with a little two-out lightning in the sixth. Gustafson connected for his second hit of the day and Ben Berdine followed with a base hit that allowed Gustafson to go to third. The throw from right field into third was offline, allowing Gustafson to come home with the third run of the game.
Hussey came out for the seventh and promptly got his eleventh strikeout of the game before Jarrett’s single. He went to a full-count and ultimately walked the next batter, but a brief mound visit from coach Jason Rafalski calmed things down and Hussey got a groundout and a strikeout looking to end the game. Eight of his strikeouts were swinging and four looking.
Grosch and Gustafson led the offensive attack with two hits apiece.
Both teams now move on to the Western PA Regional in Homer City, beginning Saturday.
Coach Rafalski has preached pitching, defense and timely hitting, and Post 135 has checked off all those boxes en route to their current 15-1 record.
Bracket details for the regional tournament will be published when they become available.
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South County Post 285 000 000 0 – 0 1 2
Warren Post 135 011 001 x – 3 8
2B – Mitch Grosch (W); WP – Nick Hussey; LP – Keegan Hornaman