CONNELLSVILLE — Caleb Dillon held visiting Belle Vernon to just three hits and drove in the game’s only run Sunday afternoon as Connellsville held on for a 1-0 Fayette County American Legion Baseball League playoff game victory.
Connellsville opted not to play Uniontown later in the day in the finals, so Uniontown, the regular season champion, was declared the tournament champ.
“The game wouldn’t have changed anything. Uniontown is first, we’re second and Belle Vernon is third for the regional tournament,” said Connellsville manager Joe Bonadio, citing concerns with possible injuries and pitcher usage.
The double-elimination Region 6 Tournament begins Friday with Blackhawk hosting games at Chippewa Park.
Pitching wasn’t a concern for either coaching staff in Sunday’s game because Connellsville’s Caleb Dillon and Belle Vernon’s JJ Hartman were in control for most of the game, the fourth between the two teams.
The contest was error-free with a combined seven hits and eight walks. Each team also turned a rally-killing double play.
“We scored one run and didn’t make an error. When you play defense, you can win games like this,” said Connellsville manager Joe Bonadio. “It was played well. The defense played well.”
Connellsville scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Cade Warrick walked with two outs to start the game-winning rally. Cole Shearer walked, moving courtesy runner Luke Warrick to second.
Dillon then ripped a single up the middle. Warrick’s back-door slide into the plate avoided the sweep tag of Belle Vernon catcher David Szerszen for the lone run of the game.
“All the credit on Luke’s slide. (Collyn Flynn) told him to back-door slide. Otherwise, he would’ve been out,” praised Dillon.
Belle Vernon threatened in the top of the inning, but ran out of a possible rally.
JJ Hartman walked to open the inning. With only nine players, Garrett Greco, who made the final out in the third inning, was permitted to be the courtesy runner.
Jared Hartman singled Greco to third two batters later after an outfield fly out. Hartman then broke for second on what was to be a straight steal and catcher Cade Warrick threw back to Dillon on the mound.
All players froze for a moment, then Dillon ran at Hartman between first and second. The focus of the rundown then turned to Greco, who was eventually tagged for the second out. So, instead of what might’ve been second and third with one out, Belle Vernon had a runner at third with two outs.
“It was a straight steal. We want second and third with one out,” said Belle Vernon coach Jake Hartman.
Nick Stanger walked with two outs, but Andrew Eckels line out to first baseman Austin Petraglia to end the inning.
Dillon allowed only two runners in the first three innings, a one-out walk in the top of the first inning to Greco and a two-out single to Jake Rathway. Greco was stranded at second after advancing on a wild pitch, and Rathway was left at second in the top of the third after he avoided a tag in a rundown when he was caught off first on a pick-off play.
Dillon struck out four in the first three innings, all looking at third strikes.
“My curve ball helped me. I had a lot of swings and misses,” said Dillon.
Dillon closed strong, allowing only Greco’s lead-off single in the top of the sixth inning. Greco was eliminated on a double play. Dillon struck out three in the final three innings.
“My team behind me was clutch for me. They did the little things. It helped keep my pitch count down,” said Dillon.
“Caleb did a great job today. He did everything we asked him to do,” said Joe Bonadio.
Hartman also benefited from a double play. Connellsville had first and second with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, but turned a 6-4-3 double play to close out the inning.
“JJ did awesome. He came out throwing harder than normal,” said Jake Hartman. “One inning he couldn’t find the zone and it ended up costing him.”