Garrett Myers and Greg Lancaster combined for a two-hit shutout, and after its bats came alive in the fourth, Uniontown Legion rolled to a 7-0 victory over Colonial 3 on Friday at Hutchinson Field in the winner's bracket of the Fayette County American Legion playoffs.
Uniontown (16-0, 18-3) moves on to play Connellsville (12-5) this afternoon at 3 p.m. in the winner's bracket at Hutchinson Field. Colonial 3 (8-10) was scheduled to play Belle Vernon (12-7) in the losers' bracket, but had to forfeit out of the tournament due to lack of players.
Belle Vernon and Farmington (8-10) are scheduled to play tonight at John DiVirgilio Field at 6 p.m. The winner of Belle Vernon and Farmington will meet the loser of Uniontown and Connellsville in an elimination game. The winner of that game will play the winner of Uniontown and Connellsville for the championship. The tournament is double elimination.
Uniontown earned the top seed in the playoffs after going undefeated in league play during the regular season, but due to a bye in the first round and several rainouts, had to wait until Friday to play its first game, and it took several innings for its offense to get going, but Colonial 3 starter Trevor Hayes had a hand in slowing down the home team's bats in the early going.
"I thought Trevor Hayes pitched a good enough game and it could have been a lot closer," Colonial 3 coach Dave Zimcosky said. "He did a really good job of pitching today against the 5A WPIAL runner-ups. We left our bats at home."
"Their guy threw great," Uniontown coach Brad Yohman said. "He was working the outside half, and he was getting a lot of ground balls and he was doing a really good job. Our guys made some adjustments, and we had a little bit of practice time earlier in the week and we had worked on that, and sometimes it takes a couple of innings to adjust, and to our guys' credit, they finally sat back, waited, go pitches that they could work with."
Myers and Hayes only allowed one hit apiece through the first three innings before Uniontown's offense started to click in the fourth.
Jayce Hampe led off the inning with a single and moved to third on Nick Kumor's doubled to centerfield.
Hayes buckled down and got the next batter to popup to catcher DJ Zimcosky, but Chad Petrush drove in the first run for Uniontown when his sacrifice fly to center scored Hampe for the only run Myers and Lancaster would need.
Kaleb Scott's single up the middle scored Kumor, and after Dylan Bohna singled to right, Andino Vecchiolla's double to right plated courtesy runner Tan Erminio and Bohna for a 4-0 lead.
"The core of the order, starting with Jayce at the two-spot, Nick, Nate, down to Chad, those guys hit the ball pretty hard all over the field," Yohman said. "It was good to see Dino see one drop for the double. It has been a while since he's driven the ball and gotten a really good double like that."
Vecchiolla is Uniontown's top pitcher, but fills in nicely at first base when not on the mound. Vecchiolla was voted by the coaches in Section 3-AAAAA as the top first baseman for Laurel Highlands during high school season. Even though he is counted on as the top hurler for his team, Vecchiolla's skills at first base are not lost on Yohman.
"Dino is a big, tall kid that can stretch and has great hands," Yohman said. "He picks balls in the dirt and he makes good plays on ground balls over there. He is just a smart baseball player. Dino can play really good first base."
Uniontown extended its advantage to seven with three in the fifth.
Hampe got things going with an infield single with one out, stole second on scored on Kumor's base hit up the middle. Kumor moved to second on the throw to the plate and scored on Nate Zimcosky's single up the middle for a 6-0 lead.
Zimcosky scored on Petrush's double to left field for a 7-0 advantage.
Yohman took out Myers after the fifth in case he needed the lefty for future games in the tournament. Myers didn't allow a run on one hit in five innings of work. He had four strikeouts and walked one in throwing 53 pitches.
"Garrett has been doing that all year for us," Yohman said. "The key today was Garrett was super efficient. I told him that was an incredible effort because that was 53 pitches in five innings. You are basically about 10 pitches an inning, and you can't ask for more than that from a coach. Garrett was hitting spots all game. His fastball had a lot of zip, a lot of late left, and that was Garrett at his best."
The hardest hit ball Myers allowed was a fly to left field by Mike Petrock in the fourth with one out, but teammate Alex Gesk was able to track it down just in front of the fence. Myers' two-seam fastball was his most effective pitch.
"I just found a groove today and stuck with it," Myers said. "The two seam was working good on the outside corner. The curve ball was a little bit iffy, but it was finding the zone most of the time. I was holding my breath when he (Petrock) hit that ball to the fence, but my left fielder (Gesk) made a great play."
Lancaster didn't have the best start to the sixth inning, as Colonial 3's Cam Brosky walked, Ricky Marucci singled and Nick Keeney walked to load the bases with nobody out and the heart of the order coming up, but after a mound visit, Lancaster recorded a flyout to right that was played perfectly by Hampe to not allow the runner to score from third and a force out at second to end the threat.
"We get into a bases loaded situation there, but at no point do we lost confidence in what Greg can do to get us out of that jam, and you see that," Yohman said. "Greg made pitches and got a really good hitter out in a big spot."
"Bases loaded with 3-4-5 coming up and we don't get a run, that definitely hurts," coach Zimcosky said. "Uniontown shut us down with their pitching. I tip my cap to Uniontown. They are a good team and well coached."
Lancaster set Colonial 3 down in order in the seventh. He allowed no runs on one hit in two innings with two strikeouts and two walks.
Hayes took the loss in allowing seven runs on 10 hits in six innings. He had three strikeouts and didn't walk a batter in throwing 89 pitches.
Preston Frost had the other hit for Colonial 3, a single in the second. He stole second, but Myers recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.
Uniontown's Junior Legion team tied Plum 7-7 after eight innings, but could not be completed due to darkness. Uniontown lost on a coin flip, but has advanced to the regional tournament that begins on July 19.