MASONTOWN — Smithfield-Fairchance escaped two bases-loaded situations and made the most of five hits for a 4-2 victory Monday night against visiting Belle Vernon in a Fayette County American Legion Baseball League game at German-Masontown Park.
The two teams are heading in different directions as the regular season winds down to a close next week.
Smithfield-Fairchance started 0-4, but has won its last three games. Conversely, Belle Vernon opened 4-0 and has dropped its past three games.
“When you leave nine runners on and bases loaded twice, it’s tough to win,” said Belle Vernon manager Thomas Jackson. “We’re not getting the timely hits.
“When (Belle Vernon started 4-0), we were playing good all the way around on offense, defense and pitching.”
“We haven’t made the mental errors, throwing the ball around,” Smithfield-Fairchance manager Bill Simpson said of the winning streak. “We were a little rusty at the beginning of the season.
“I think the eye opener was when we were 10-runned by Charleroi with a bunch of errors.”
Smithfield-Fairchance starting pitcher Dylan Shea handed the visitors a prime opportunity for a big inning, without a hit.
Shea walked Jake Wessel, Andrew Sokol, Ryan Hamer and Zach Jackson in order with one out to give Belle Vernon a 1-0 lead. Shea, however, escaped any more damage with a strikeout looking and a comebacker to the mound.
“The first inning was rough,” said Simpson. “I’ll give Dylan a little break. He just came back from vacation and is a little rusty.
“Dylan wanted to go the whole game, but his pitch count was up.”
Smithfield-Fairchance responded in the bottom of the inning for a 2-1 lead.
Gavin Smith walked with one out and Nate McCusker singled. Nick Pegg then drove both runners home.
Shea settled down after the first inning, allowing just one runner, a walk to Aiden Ochs in the second inning, over the next two innings to carry a no-hitter into the third inning.
Smithfield-Fairchance added to its lead with a run in the bottom of the third inning with the help of the game’s only error.
McCusker was safe on an infield error to start the inning. He was out at second base on Nick Pegg’s ground ball. Pegg stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch.
Jerrett Dempsey walked to keep the inning alive and Caleb Matzus-Chapman brought Pegg home with a single.
Belle Vernon broke up Shea’s no-hit bid in grand style in the top of the fourth inning on consecutive singles by Andrew Kostelnik, Donovan von Fradenburgh and Martin Marion. However, Shea killed the rally with a strikeout looking, a soft liner to second base and fly ball to center field.
The visitors cut the deficit to 3-2 with a solo run in the top of the fifth inning. Hamer singled with one out, moved to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a stolen base and scored on Jackson’s single.
Jackson stole his way to third base, but that’s where he stayed after a strikeout and a comebacker to Shea.
Smithfield-Fairchance responded in the bottom of the inning. McCusker walked to start the inning and was sacrificed to second on Pegg’s bunt. McCusker moved to third on a passed ball. Matzus-Chapman walked with two outs and Shea helped his cause with a sharp, run-scoring single to left field.
Belle Vernon threatened in both the sixth and seventh innings with a runner advancing to third base, but Matzus-Chapman got two fly ball outs to end the sixth and game-ending double play in the seventh.
“We hit the ball, but everything was lifted. We need to hit the ball and make them make the play,” said Jackson.
Jackson was also handicapped with pitch restrictions and a busy week with a game at Connellsville Wednesday and a doubleheader against Uniontown on Thursday.
“That hurts our pitching,” added Jackson.
Smithfield-Fairchance hosts Charleroi on Wednesday and travels to Connellsville on Thursday.