CURWENSVILLE — Throughout the early innings of Thursday’s varsity baseball game between the Elk County Catholic Crusaders and the Curwensville Golden Tide, quite the pitching duel was shaping up between Crusader Mark Kraus and Curwensville’s Shane Sunderlin.
But all it took was a five-run fifth inning by the home team to give Curwensville a hard-fought 5-0 win.
Sunderlin pitched 6 and 2/3 of scoreless baseball while also helping out his cause at the plate, smacking in three runs on a double deep into the left/center gap.
“We had great pitching by Shane Sunderlin today,” Curwensville head coach Tom Harzinski said. “Shane worked ahead in the counts and threw really well ... It was a gutty effort and he’ll be hitting the ice hard. He’s a good kid and he deserves this.”
The Crusaders did come out of the gates firing, with back-to-back hits by Tommy Slay and Joey Geci to start the game — although Geci was later picked off at first by Sunderlin. After walking Dominic Zambonini, Sunderlin then struck out Luke Ginther to end the threat.
After Kraus retired the top three Golden Tide batters, Jordan DePrator smacked a double over the left fielder to get into scoring position in the top of the second. That would turn out be the last hit of the game for the Crusaders.
“I think the first three or four innings, I thought we were seeing the ball really well,” ECC head coach James Slay said. “We were a little impatient. I kept saying all game that we’ve got to lay off the high pitches. That’s just a lot of anxiety for earlier in the season.”
Kraus scattered three walks over four innings for the Crusaders but did not allow a hit before being pulled in the fifth inning for Jordan DePrator.
“We have a plan with our pitchers,” Slay said. “We’re not going full rotation as they’re not ready because we didn’t have a season last year. So I have a hard stop for the guys and some of them haven’t thrown in a while and in the process of becoming great, sometimes you face a challenge. I felt like today was just a lesson in our process and our body of work of finishing strong for the postseason. It’s disappointing, to say the least, but it’s a process we have to go through so that we’re ready for the end of the season.”
With the score still 0-0 in the bottom of the fifth and with one out, Curwensville’s Chase Graham hit a single up the middle to break up the combined no-hitter bid.
“Chase Graham came up with a timely single there with one out to get that started,” Harzinski said.
Curwensville got on the board as Spencer Hoover hit into a fielder’s choice to take a 1-0 lead and Keegan Wilson brought in another run via error to go up 2-0.
With the bases loaded, Sunderlin then took a DePrator pitch deep to left/center — landing on the upslope of Curwensville’s field — that drove in all the baserunners for a 5-0 lead.
“Shane Sunderlin came in there and hit a ball — he hit the ball well and got three runs in,” Harzinski said. “Shane was spot on today.”
From there, it was a back and forth battle before Curwensville’s Tyler Lee came in to relieve Sunderlin with one out in the top of the seventh, striking out Tommy Slay to end the game at the 5-0 final.
Harzinski said it was nice to get the first win of the season and was pleased with the overall effort.
“We played as a team,” Harzinski said. “Everybody down from our courtesy runners to our pinch runners to making defensive plays by our young players that we have. It’s a great team win.
While on the losing end, Slay said there were plenty of positives they can take from the game in moving forward.
“I thought Jordan calmed down once the damage was done after five runs,” Slay said. “But once he calmed down, I saw him work and I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. I think he’s going to help us throughout the season. Mark did an outstanding job. I thought he had great ball control. We kept his pitches right at the pitch count where I wanted — we kept him under 55.
“We had great ball contact. Some of them were fly balls that just hit the wrong spot. Ball contact I thought was good. And really I thought we played a good defensive game. There were a couple of small errors that we’ll get through.”
Curwensville goes to 1-2 and plays at Karns City today.
“We go (today) to Karns City so we’ll head down there and hopefully get number two on the year,” Harzinski said.
ECC falls to 0-3 on the year and travels to Bradford today.
“I’m just glad to be out here playing baseball,” Slay said. “We’ll be fine.”
Tommy Slay ss 4010, Joey Geci lf 3010, Joe Tettis rf-3b 3000, Dominic Zambanini 1b 1000, Luke Ginther cf 3000, Jordan DePrator 3b-p 3010, Mark Kraus p-1b 2000, Timmy Brannock cr 0000, Isaac Dellaquila c 2000, David Anderson 2b 3000, Mason McAllister rf 0000. Totals: 24-0-3-0.
Jake Mullins ss 1000, Spencer Hoover c 3101, Tyler Libby cr 0000, Keegan Wilson 1b 4101, Matt Brown dh 3100, Chris Fegert cf 0000, Shane Sunderlin p-3b 2013, Shane Haney cr-lf 2000, Grant Swanson cr 0000, Tyler Lee 2b-p 2000, Jayson Rowles lf 1000, Chase Graham rf 2010, Nik Fegert pr-rf 0100, Thad Butler 3b-2b 2100. Totals: 22-5-2-5.
Score by Innings
ECC 000 000 0—0
Curwensville 000 050 x—5
Errors: DCC 3, Curwensville 1. LOB: DCC 7, Curwensville 7. 2B: Jordan DePrator; Shane Sunderlin. SB: Mark Kraus; Thad Butler, Jake Mullins.
ECC: Mark Kraus-4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO; Jordan DePrator-2 IP, 2 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 1 SO.
Curwensville: Shane Sunderlin:6 1/3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO; Tyler Lee-2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO.