Opportunistic

Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg Post 135 catcher Hunter Loomis prepares to tag Millcreek Post 773’s Garritt Brink in the seventh inning of their Junior Legion District Tournament game at Legion Field, Wednesday, July 12, 2017. Brink was out on the play.

In a game of inches, every mistake is magnified.

The teams able to capitalize on those mistakes often find themselves on the winning side. That’s exactly what Warren Post 135 did during its 3-2, 8-inning win over Millcreek Post 773 at Legion Field Wednesday.

Trailing 2-1 and down to its last out, Post 135 had runners on second and third. Tyler Gustafson hit a groundball to Millcreek third baseman Noah Timpano. Timpano’s throw bounced off first baseman Nate Hayes’ glove and to the fence, allowing Mitch Grosch and Nick Hussey to score.

The game actually began Tuesday evening, but was postponed following a steady rain that after the top of the second inning. Post 135 had a chance to come into Wednesday’s action with a 1-0 lead, but Grosch, who reached on an error and advanced to third on another, hesitated on a passed ball and was stranded at third.

Post pitcher Ryan Rafalski had to work out of a jam in the top of the second. He walked Garritt Clark to start the inning. JJ Delgado’s sacrifice bunt moved Clark to second before Garritt Brink drew a walk. Rafalski struck out Marty Kaverman looking, walked Mitch Fiorelli and ended the inning with a strikeout of Timpano.

Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg Post 135’s Ryan Arnold leads off second base during a Junior Legion District Tournament game at Legion Field, Wednesday, July 12, 2017.

Rafalski and Clark, his mound opponent, then took turns mowing down the lineups. The pair combined to give up only four hits through the next four innings.

Post threatened in the bottom of the second inning. Gustafson hit a 1-out single, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball. Clark caught Ben Berdine looking and induced Hunter Loomis to ground out to end the threat.

The top of the Post order looked like it would finally break through in the bottom of the third. Micah Passmore drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. Rafalski followed with a single to center, but Passmore was held at third. Grosch and Hussey both popped out. James Swanson hit a sharp grounder to short, but Sam Crowley made a diving stop and his throw beat Swanson by a step to keep the game scoreless.

Post got on the board in the bottom of the sixth. Grosch drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on Swanson’s groundout. Ethan Wilson was brought in to pinch hit and roped a two-strike grounder to third that went just off Timpano’s glove, allowing Grosch to score and giving Post a 1-0 lead heading into the seventh.

Grosch came on to pitch the seventh. Brink drew a leadoff walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on Kaverman’s groundout to second. Fiorelli put a bunt down the first base line, but Hussey was able to field it cleanly and make the throw to Loomis who tagged Brink, leaving Post one out away from a win.

Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg Post 135 third baseman Micah Passmore throws to first during a Junior Legion District Tournament game against Millcreek Post 773 at Legion Field, Wednesday, July 12, 2017. Post 135 defeated Millcreek 3-2 in eight innings, earning a spot in the Western PA Regional Tournament July 22.

The out came two batters too late.

Fiorelli moved to second on a wild pitch. Timpano then hit a two strike pitch to shallow right field. The ball fell and Fiorelli raced home to tie the game 1-1.

Millcreek scored again in the top of the eigth. Brandon Boehm was hit by a pitch with one out and Mike Oblich came on to pinch run. Hayes’ sacrifice bunt put Oblich on second with two outs. Delgado lined a shot to left field that went just over Berdine’s head and gave Millcreek a 2-1 lead.

Grosch led off the bottom half with an infield hit and stole second. Hussey was hit by a pitch and both were moved up a base with Swanson’s sacrifice bunt, setting the stage for Gustafson.

The win put Post 135 in the district championship game, 6 p.m. Friday at Legion Field, and earned them a berth in the Western Pa. Regional Tournament beginning July 22 in Homer City.