West End made a stirring comeback.
Altoona center fielder Dylan Adams made an even more sensational catch.
West End had scored three times to cut a five-run deficit to two and had the tying runs on second and third when Anthony Caruso drilled a two-out shot to the deepest part of center field. It looked like it was a sure game-tying double, but Adams sprinted from near-shallow center field to the fence and made a brilliant over-the-shoulder catch. Adams' play would make former Major League greats like Willie Mays and Ken Griffey proud and clinched a 10-8 Altoona win Thursday at Logue Field in the Babe Ruth 13-15 state tournament opener for both teams.
Altoona’s Joel Reighard is out at second base as West End's Noah Esposito makes the throw to first base Thursday night at Logue Field.
Altoona avenged two previous defeats to District 8 champion West End in districts and started pool play in impressive fashion. While the loss was a disappointing win for West End it hardly ruins its title chances since it has three pool play games remaining.
West End trailed 10-3 in the sixth and was still behind 10-5 with one out and nobody on base in the seventh. The district champions, though, showed why they have one of the state's premier Babe Ruth traditions and scored three times before the second out was recorded. Dominick Bragalone, Tommy Baggett and Bradley Walter all reached base and the first two scored on a passed ball and wild pitch, respectively. Noah Esposito then made it 10-8 with a RBI single before Justin Niklaus walked.
Both runners moved up on a one-out wild pitch before original Altoona starting pitcher Trenyin Martin re-entered and struck out the next hitter. That set the stage for Caruso, a starter on South Williamsport's Class AA state qualifier during the high school season. Caruso is one of the team's best hitters and proved it in the biggest spot, slamming a pitch that looked like it might sail through the rain and over the center-field fence.
Adams gave chase but it appeared Caruso would have at least a game-tying double. Instead Adams made the play of his life and caught the ball on the warning track. Left fielder Tanner Snyder was closing in as well and yelled out, "He caught it!" in near amazement before Adams raised his glove in the air and Altoona celebrated its dramatic win.
Adams' highlight-reel catch was the culmination of a big-play Altoona performance as it repeatedly made game-changing or game-saving plays to snuff out West End rallies. West End had scored twice in the fourth inning, pulling within 4-3 and had the go-ahead runners on when third baseman Josh Degal snared a liner headed toward left field. Instead of it being a game-tying single, Degal turned it into an inning-ending double play, throwing out the runner who had left first.
Two innings later, West End was fighting back and scored twice to make it 10-5 while putting two runners on. Damone Buxton then drove a liner into deep left field that would have scored two more runs. Instead, Snyder made a terrific catch and flashed a big smile as he ran off the field.
Altoona never trailed and both times West End pulled within a run, it responded with two-run and four-run innings, respectively. Snyder went 3 for 4 with a triple and three RBI while Luke Stultz went 2 for 2 with two RBI.
West End coaches tried their best to motivate their players beforehand and one said, "act like you're playing in a state tournament," during pregame warmups. They seemed to sense that the players might be complacent after already beating Altoona twice and those fears were confirmed as West End looked flat until the final few innings and made several uncharacteristic defensive mistakes.
West End never gave up, though, as Baggett and Walter hit back-to-back sixth-inning singles that sparked a two-run rally and made it 10-5. Bragalone made a nice catch in right field in the bottom half of the inning, stranding two Altoona runners and keeping alive West End's comeback hopes.
West End will try and bounce back at 8 p.m. tonight when it faces Pine Force A.A. Altoona meets Wayne County at 4 p.m. and opening ceremonies follow at 7 p.m.
In the tournament's first game Mifflin County overwhelmed Brandywine, 33-2. Mifflin County pounded out 30 hits and scored 15 fifth-inning runs as Lucas McKay went 5 for 5 with a home run, triple and five RBI.
West End 001 202 3-8 5 2
Altoona 202 240 x-10 12 3
Marc McClain, David Sanders (3), Bradley Walter (5), Sam Buck (6) and Damone Buxton. Trenyin Martin, Joel Reighard (4), Martin (7) and Austin Pope. W-Martin. L-McClain.
Top West End hitters: Dominick Bragalone 1-3, 2 R; Tommy Baggett 1-2, 2 R; Bradley Walter 2-2, R; Noah Esposito 1-2, RBI. Top Altoona hitters: Tanner Snyder 3-4, 3B, 3 RBI, R; Luke Stultz 2-2, 2 RBI, 2 R; Josh Degal 2-4, R.
Pool play records: Altoona 1-0. West End 0-1.
Mifflin County 33, Brandywine 2
Mifflin County407 7(15)-32 30 0
Brandywine 000 20-2 7 7
Hunter Shuff, Ross Tarquato (4) and Matt Lutz. Darren Schwartz, Dennis Ezekiel (4), Andrew Gans (4), Shane Stabinski (5) and Mike Walsh. W-Shuff. L-Schwartz.
Top Mifflin County hitters: Lucas McKay 5-5, HR, 3B, 5 RBI, 4 R; Drew Hannon 2-3, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R; Lutz 1-3, 2B; Max Remy 3-5, 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R; Jacob Walters 2-3, 2 R; Jared Michaels 3-3, 3 RBI; Teague Miller 2-3, 2B, 3 RBI; Hunter Walker 2-5, 3 R. Top Brandywine hitters: Schwartz 1-3, 2B, RBI.
Pool play records: Mifflin County 1-0. Brandywine 0-1.