JOHNSTOWN - Cody Doran took a called third strike, sprinted to the dugout and moments later it sounded as though an explosion was going off in the Nittany Oil/Minit Mart locker room.
It was that kind of final few innings for the Altoona entry Wednesday when it was eliminated from the All American Amateur Baseball Assoc-iation national tournament, 5-4, by Youngstown at Point Stadium.
With the game tied, 4-4, in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs and no one on, Doran was an inch away from sending the game into the ninth tied with a running catch, but John Beatty's line drive got past the Nittany Oil center fielder. The ball rolled all the way to the fence, and Beatty slid home with the game-winning inside-the-park home run.
Mirror photo by Darian Somers
Nittany Oil/Minit?Mart pitcher Justin Taylor walks back to the mound as Youngstown celebrates scoring on an inside-the-park home run.
"I wasn't sure if it was going to get past [Doran]," Youngstown manager Bob Mingo said. "Even when it did, I didn't expect an inside-the-parker at that time. When the throw came from the outfielder, it curved. When I saw that, I felt the infielder wasn't going to have a good shot at it and decided to send him."
The throw beat Beatty to the plate but was slightly offline. By the time catcher Ryan Hill got to Beatty, he had already slid safely home.
"After I saw it drop, I was just pumped," Beatty said. "I was coming around third just hoping I didn't cramp up. I was just trying to get to the plate."
Nittany Oil's bench believed Beatty missed third and appealed the call to no avail.
"We thought he missed the base," Nittany Oil manager Joe Faretta said. "But there were other plays in this game. You just take your hat off to a team like that. They played well and played an inning better than us."
For the first five innings, it was all Nittany Oil.
As he did against Berkley Hills a night earlier, Justin Taylor came through early for Altoona. The sophomore at Cal. Pa. hit a two-run triple to score Doran and Austin Mock in the first inning.
Braedon Pennington added to the Nittany Oil lead in the second with an RBI single to score Von Walker.
The Altoona entry held that 3-0 lead through five innings as starting pitcher Jordan Fuller breezed through Youngstown's lineup.
Nittany Oil missed chances to add to its lead with a runner on second and one out in the third and did not bring Walker home when he doubled to lead off the fourth.
"We jumped out early, and you have to keep in mind these guys are 18-, 19- or 20-years-old," Faretta said. "We just played last night, and not to make excuses, but I told them this would be their biggest challenge to play nine strong innings right out of the gate in the morning.
"It's a game of inches, and that was definitely the case today."
Fuller hit a wall in the sixth inning. The right-hander walked Brock McGivern before botching a sacrifice bunt attempt by Nick Reithaler. A wild pitch put runners at second and third before a groundout put Youngstown on the board.
Josh Shorts' RBI single chased Fuller, and reliever Mark Curtis got ahead of Beatty 0-2 before allowing a game-tying double. Beatty scored on a sacrifice fly to give Youngstown a 4-3 lead.
"I ran out of gas and starting missing my spots," Fuller said. "It's rough losing, but it happens. It's baseball."
Nittany Oil tied the game in the seventh on a Doran sacrifice fly but once again left two men on base.
Altoona had its best shot to take the lead in the eighth. Jared Bettura's 119th pitch of the day led to a walk by Jordan Faretta that put runners on first and second with no outs.
Youngstown went to its ace, John Gora, and he escaped the jam. Hill bunted into a fielder's choice, and Gora struck out Marcinko and Walker.
"When they reached on a sacrifice bunt, that was huge," Faretta said. "That really took the momentum swing their way. Then we couldn't get a bunt down."
Nittany Oil finished the tournament 1-2.
"The Altoona AAABA league is in great hands with John Austin," Faretta said. "It's only going to grow and get better and better. We're going to keep bringing quality teams to this tournament year after year."
NITTANY OIL (4): Marcinko ss 502, Doran cf 411, Pennington dh-1b 401, Mock 3b 511, Taylor 1b-p 402, Weibley rf 000, Myers rf 100, Faretta 2b 300, Walters c 300, Hill c 100, Walker lf 322, Fuller p 000, Curtis p 000. Totals - 33-4-9
YOUNGSTOWN (5): Bennett dh 400, McGivern 2b 211, Reithaler 1b 210, Rohan 3b 401, Shorts ss 411, Beatty cf 422, Markovitch rf 401, Messett lf 201, Stein c 301, Calhoun c 000, Bettura p 000, Gora p 000. Totals - 29-5-8
SCORE BY INNINGS
Nittany Oil210 000 100 - 4 9 2
Youngstown000 004 01X - 5 8 1
E-Fuller 2, Rohan. 2B-Beatty, Walker. 3B-Taylor. HR-Beatty. RBI-Beatty 3, Rohan, Messett, Taylor 2, Pennington, Doran.
Fuller - 5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 84 pitches
Curtis - 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 16 pitches
Taylor (L) - 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 30 pitches
Bettura - 7 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 119 pitches
Gora (W) - 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 24 pitches
Records: Nittany Oil (1-2); Youngstown (2-1)