Twice, West End left fielder Alec Fantaskey faced two-out, 0-2 counts. Both times, he smashed two-run hits.
Fantaskey is like most West End players. Two strikes do not bother him. These are situations to be embraced.
He and West End embraced them a lot Friday at Logue Field.
Fantaskey went 2 for 2 with four RBIs while Andrew Malone threw a complete-game four-hitter as West End routed Bensalem, 13-3 in five innings of a 15-year old Babe Ruth state tournament pool play game. West End improved to 2-0, belted 10 hits, scored seven two-out runs and has outscored its first two opponents, 21-3. It tries for win No. 3 at 4 today against Keystone.
"We stress really good two-strike hitting and being a good two-strike hitter. That's what we work on a lot," said Fantaskey, who reached base all four times and scored twice from his lead-off spot. "We always feel like we're going to come through with two strikes."
West End exacted a measure of revenge on Bensalem (0-3). Bensalem is the only team that has beaten West End in the previous 13 and 14-year old state tournaments that West End has not come back to defeat later. That included Bensalem beating it 9-3 in last year's state final.
No big motivation speeches were needed Friday. The past did all the talking.
"Tonight was the night. The kids wanted this one," West End coach Tom Marnon said. "They were ready."
That was immediately evident. After Malone retired the side in order in the top of the first, West End erupted for seven runs in the bottom half. The first seven players reached base, including Brandon Stokes and Malone who hit a two-run single and two-run double, respectively. Fantaskey capped the 11-batter inning with a two-run double, slamming the 0-2 offering to deep left field.
Fantaskey made it an 11-run game in the fourth inning when he hit a 1-2 pitch into left-center field for a two-run single. He played well as a sophomore on the JV Williamsport team last year and showed why he could be a breakthrough player for the varsity next year. So did soon-to-be Loyalsock sophomores Jake Glavin (2 for 3, 2 RBIs) and Caleb Schmucker (2 for 2) who each doubled, Glavin hitting a two-run, two-out one in the third inning.
"I didn't do that well (Thursday) and I was out in front of everything. People told me to stay back and wait for it and that's what I did," Fantaskey said. "We have a bunch of confidence in each other."
"We hit the ball a ton," Marnon said. "We hit a lot of line drives. Even some of our outs were line drives and we had only 12 outs so we did really well."
While the defense made three errors, it also made some nice plays. Malone, shortstop Nate Krizan and Glavin combined on a third-inning double play and reserve second baseman Dayking Napoleon combined with Krizan to turn a pretty game-ending double play.
The reserves have come up big thus far, highlighting the team's depth. Thursday, three straight pinch-hitters sparked a four-run sixth inning and last night they provided solid defense while Keegan Sanders walked and scored a run.
"I know this is said a lot of times, but I have no qualms about putting any one of the 15 players in offensively, defensively or running the bases," Marnon said. "We're just solid and deep. We don't lose anything with any substitutions that we make."
Malone and Schmucker have been impressive on the mound the last two nights, allowing just one earned run in 12 innings. Malone pounded the strike zone, was efficient and threw well whenever Bensalem seemed on the verge of rallying.
Take away, two second-inning errors and West End played well in all facets, also running the bases well. It is where it wants to be through two games, but West End also knows there is more work to do. A win today would almost guarantee a semifinal berth Monday.
"Enjoy it for the night and bring it back for (today)," Fantaskey said. "We just need to keep rolling and keep going."
Bensalem010 11-3 4 1
West End712 3x-13 10 3
Billy Kohler, Shawn Puskar (2) and Matt Pagagle. Andrew Malone and Brandon Stokes. W-Malone. L-Kohler.
Top Bensalem hitters: Sean Hayes 1-2, 2B, R; Tim Ulrich 1-2, RBI; Pagagle 1-2, RBI. Top West End hitters: Alec Fantaskey 2-2, 2B, 4 RBI, 2 R; Jake Glavin 2-3, 2B, 2 RBI, R; Stokes 1-3, 2 RBI, 2 R; Caleb Schmucker 2-2, 2B, 2 R; Terrell Scott 2 RBI; Malone 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI, R; Nate Krizan 1-3, RBI, R.
Records: West End 2-0. Bensalem 0-3.