WOOLRICH - Trent Rickert took two ferocious swings at Draig Ruff offerings.
"They were two pretty bad swings, actually," the Keystone Major center fielder said with a smile.
That's why they give you three strikes, young man.
Rickert put a healthy cut on the seventh pitch of his at-bat, driving a Ruff pitch that smacked off the scoreboard in right field for a fifth-inning grand slam. Keystone was off and rolling at that point to another convincing victory, 14-1, over Newberry in the District 12 Major baseball winner's bracket quarterfinals on Sunday.
The victory puts Keystone in the winner's semifinal against Loyalsock, which easily handled Montgomery in the other game at Woolrich Sunday. Wednesday's game at the Old Lycoming field begins at 6 p.m.
"They are loose and just playing baseball," Keystone manager Jim Corl said. "I figured there would be some jitters, especially today because Newberry had some big boys. We just came out with the mind set that we had to do what we had to do."
Don't let the score fool you.
This was a tight ballgame - right up to Rickert slamming the scoreboard with his grand slam.
"I just said to myself, 'Hey, let's make this one count.'" Rickert said. "There it was, and boom. Everyone was so happy when they saw it hit the scoreboard. Everyone was just screaming and clapping. It was pretty neat. I sure was happy."
In fact, it was a classic pitcher's duel between Keystone's ace Ethan Watkins and Newberry's Ruff.
A Newberry infield hiccup allowed two runs to score in the first, while the locals threw a ball away for a three-base error in the opening frame, leading to the Lycoming County squad's lone run.
From there, the two pitchers dominated.
Ruff retired eight straight hitters between the first and third innings until consecutive RBIs by Jake Conklin, Troy Gardner and Zack Eck in the fourth gave Keystone (2-0) a 5-1 lead.
Watkins, who was a member of last year's Keystone Major squad that reached the Little League World Series, was nearly unhittable. Newberry's lone run was unearned as Watkins struck out 13 of 22 batters in his 4 2-3 innings of work.
"The hope was to get up a nice amount and possibly pull E (Watkins) after 50 pitches," Jim Corl said. "In reality, though, we knew that wasn't going to happen. We knew that Newberry was going to be tough, and we kind of accepted the fact that this was going to be his game. You don't want to look forward, and when you see Newberry lined up across from you, you have to throw your best. And E was available. This turned out to be his game."
Torren Potts broke up the no-hitter in the second on an infield hit that shortstop Austyn Carson made a nice play on keeping it to a one-bagger. Potts later drilled a one-out double to center in the fourth, only to see Watkins strike out the next batter and coax a slow roller to first baseman A.J. Smith for the final out.
"Their pitcher was very effective," Newberry manager Lester Loner said. "He threw some nice fastballs, and did a nice job of mixing in the breaking pitches. He kept our batters off-stride a little bit. We would really like to get back around and play these guys one more time. I would like to see what we can do."
Keystone broke it open in the fifth.
Asher Corl led off the frame with a rocket to the right-center gap for a double, Aaron Swartz drew a one-out walk and Smith followed with his second of three singles on the afternoon.
It set the stage for Rickert.
On the 3-2 count, the youngster lumbered up and drilled a hard liner toward right. It carried over the fence and sent a large thud ringing around the Roswell Brayton Complex.
Rickert was all smiles as he slapped Jim Corl's hand rounding third, and headed down the line toward his awaiting teammates at home.
"Trent Ricket's homer was huge," the Keystone manager said. "He put two ferocious swings on balls, and then, stays within himself, barrels it up and drives a pitch. He didn't get out of sorts, and just kept that smile on his face. That was huge."
Down 9-1, it turned into an uphill battle for the Williamsport-area squad, especially with Ruff exiting the game due to pitch-count limitations.
"We thought that we had him out on the pitch before, but we just didn't get the call," Loner said. "That happens at times. The next pitch, we left it a little too much in the middle of the plate and he hit it well. Give him credit for hanging in there. All home runs hurt, but that one, especially. We just tried to keep our heads up as much as we could."
Keystone plated five in the sixth - thanks to consecutive run-scoring singles by Watkins, Swartz and Smith - and two more scoring on wild pitches and a double steal.
"These guys have come a long way," coach Corl said. "They are young, but it's awesome to watch them mature with every game. They really played a nice game."
Smith had another big afternoon for the boys in blue, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs. In two all-star games, the pitcher-first baseman is a combined 7-for-9 with six singles, a double and eight RBIs.
Carson also had multiple hits, going 2-for-4, while eight of Keystone's 11 players had hits.
Potts and Ben Garverick had the lone Newberry rips.
"I thought that Draig threw very well today," Loner said. "He's our No. 2 pitcher, and I thought he kept us in it early. There were some pitches that I thought we should have had strikeouts on, but we didn't get them. That's the way the game goes at times. They hit the ball when they had to."
Up next for Keystone is a stern test against a high-octane Loyalsock offense. The locals will have Smith and Conklin available on the bump. Watkins, because he reached his 85-pitch limit, won't be available until Friday.
"We hit the ball again, and that's what you have to do," Jim Corl said. "Now, we have to rebound. E is gone for a few days, and we need someone to step up on the mound. We had two pretty nice pitching performances, and now, we need someone else to step up or keep stepping up. We don't have that security blanket anymore, so we'll see what happens."
Keystone200 345-14 11 1
Newberry100 000-1 3 2
Ethan Watkins, Jake Conklin (5) and Asher Corl. Draig Ruff, Tyler Askey (5), Kyle Caringi (6) and Nathan Welch. WP-Watkins. LP-Ruff.
Top?Keystone hitters:?Trent Rickert HR; Asher Corl 2B; A.J. Smith 3 hits; Austin?Carson 2 hits. Top?Newberry hitters:?Ben?Garverick 2B; Torren Potts 2 hits, 2B.