CARMICHAELS — Joby Lapkowicz had a tough start, but strong finish Monday night to preserve Carmichaels’ 4-2 Fayette County Baseball League victory over visiting Masontown.
Carmichaels improves to 7-2 and had six games left entering Tuesday night’s game at Mill Run. Masontown goes to 6-4 with five games remaining.
Carmichaels had a tough loss to the Fayette Raiders at the end of last week, but rebounded against the defending champions.
“This was a great bounce-back game,” said Carmichaels manager Dickie Krause. “They’re the champs. I have a lot of respect for their pitchers.
“It was going to be a low-run game if you can contain them.”
The Copperheads carried a 4-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning behind starting pitcher Nate Torbich.
Reed Long singled with one out and moved to second when Austin Bergman was was walked.
Krause called on young left-hander Beau Bigam to close out the game. Chad Petrush greeted Bigam with an RBI single to left field.
Bigam got Kaine Frye on a fly ball to center field for the second out of the inning, but walked losing pitcher Willie Palmer to load the bases.
When Bigam went 2-0 on cleanup hitter Nate Zimcosky, Krause called on Lapkowicz. But, his first two pitches were balls to walk in run.
However, the veteran left-hander stranded the tying and go-ahead runs when Zach Uhazie flew out to right field for the final out.
“Joby was the emergency (pitcher). He’s a veteran who has been around. I just went with the veteran,” explained Krause.
The Copperheads put up three runs on two hits in the bottom of the sixth inning to extend their lead.
Drake Long walked to open the inning, but was forced at second on Alex Gesk’s ground ball. Ron Nopwasky followed with a single over the third base bag.
Conner Kelly walked to load the bases.
Pinch-hitter Joe Pacconi hit a ground ball to Bergman. The first baseman stepped on the bag for the out on Pacconi, but his hurried throw to the plate for the tag on Gesk sailed to the third base side of the plate. Uhazie was able to corral the throw, but not in time to tag out a sliding Gesk.
Joel Spishock then capped the rally with a sharp, two-run double to center field.
Neither team had a hit through the first two innings, though Masontown threatened in the top of the first inning.
Chad Petrush walked to start the inning. Willie Palmer hit a ground ball to the right side that was not handled cleanly. The toss to first with Torbich covering was ruled late as Palmer stumbled over the base.
Torbich pitched out of the early trouble with an infield fly and strikeout.
Torbich allowed only one baserunner over the next two innings, and was helped by his defense in the second inning when Lapkowicz made a diving catch in short right-center field for an out of Michael Coll’s sinking line drive.
Torbich allowed his first hit, an infield single to Michael Coll, in the top of the fourth inning. The single, coupled with an error, gave Masontown runners at first and second with one out, but Torbich stranded both with another infield fly and ground out to second base.
Bergman opened the fifth inning with an infield single after second baseman Ron Nopwosky’s dive stopped the ball, but couldn’t find the handle in time for the out. Bergman advanced to second on Petrush’s sacrifice bunt and third on Kaine Frye’s infield ground out.
Torbich escaped trouble once again when he got Palmer on a comebacker for the final out.
The left-hander retired the side in order in the sixth inning. Torbich struck out three, walked three and allowed three hits.
“Nate is amazing to me. Not to have pitched more than three innings this season, he had great command tonight. He was at 100 pitches (when he was replaced). It was a real gutty effort. He’s a real baseball player,” praised Krause.
“That’s the story of our season, so far. We are definitely not hitting the ball where we need to be. We’re in a little bit of a slump,” said Masontown manager John Palmer. “We’re not striking out. We’re putting the bat on the ball, but it’s right at somebody. Either fly outs or ground outs.
“I’m glad it’s happening now instead of the playoffs.”
Palmer was equally efficient through the early innings. He finished with six strikeouts and five walks.
The right-hander walked two batters in the bottom of the first inning, but stranded both. He walked another batter in the second inning, but left him stranded at first.
Chuck Gasti broke up the no-hitter with a single up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the third inning, but another ground ball out ended the threat.
The Copperheads finally broke through in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Nopwasky singled with two outs and was pinch-run for by Logan Mahle. Conner Kelly’s fly ball to center field carried over Kaine Frye to the fence and Mahle chugged around the bases for the game’s first run.
“The big hits were Kelly’s double and Spishock’s two-run double,” said Krause. “Those were huge two-out hits.”
John Palmer expects his squad to get rolling in defense of its league title.
“We need to learn and grow from these mistakes now. These guys are champions,” said John Palmer. “It doesn’t matter where we finish. Naturally, we want to win the championship, but the goal is to make the playoffs first.
“The bats have to come alive. That’s the one thing. The bats have to come alive. We haven’t had that spark yet. We need to get that spark and get hot at the end of the season.
“The pitching is always there.”