HOPWOOD — Hopewell led for a half of an inning Tuesday, only to have Uniontown storm back for a 14-7 victory in the Region 6 American Legion Baseball Tournament championship at Hutchinson Field.
The host team now returns to the state tournament after last playing at Boyertown in 2018. Uniontown is scheduled to begin play Saturday morning.
Hopewell managed to do something that Smithfield-Fairchance and Brighton Township were unable to do — take a lead over Uniontown.
The visitors scored two runs in the top of the first inning on Joey Asvestas’ RBI single and the other coming home on a nifty double play turned by Uniontown shortstop Ty Sankovich.
“That’s the first time we were behind in the tournament. We only allowed one run (to Brighton Township) in the tournament,” said Uniontown manager Brad Yohman. “Hopewell has a lot of tough matchups. Hopewell is very well coached and the coaches run a great program. We knew they would come in and fight.”
Hopewell led for all of one out in the bottom of the first inning.
“Our kids responded. We knew we’d have to come back with a counter punch, and we did,” said Yohman.
Gage Gillott wasn’t hit by the first pitch as he was in the first two games, but did open with a walk. Ty Sankovich followed with a walk.
Santino Marra’s fly out to left field wasn’t deep enough to move the runners, but Cole Shearer’s sharp double to left field was, bringing home Gillott and sending Sankovich to third base.
Sankovich then scored on a passed ball.
Uniontown starting pitcher Alex McClain settled down in the second inning and retired nine of the next 11 batters.
“Alex needed to settle in and he did. He put up zeroes,” said Yohman.
With McClain settling in, the offense picked up the pace over the next two innings with six runs.
“I had a real good feeling we’d get into our offense,” said Yohman. “I thought if we could stay on pitches, we could keep the line moving. We did a little bit of everything today.”
Uniontown received help in the second inning scoring its first run on an errant pickoff throw to first base after Kaleb Scott and Joe Chambers singled with one out. Sankovich’s fly ball brought home the second run.
Uniontown doubled its lead after batting around in the bottom of the third inning.
McClain was hit by a pitch with one out. Braeden O’Brien singled past the shortstop.
Scott followed with a run-scoring double to bring home McClain. An error on the relay throw allowed O’Brien to score.
Chambers and Gillott walked to load the bases. Scott came home on a passed ball and Marra capped the scoring with an RBI single for an 8-2 lead after three innings.
Hopewell kept the game in touch with a run in the top of the fifth inning, but Uniontown responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Gillott was safe at second base to open the fifth inning when the left fielder was unable to hold the ball on a running catch. Marra singled in Gillott with one out.
Brant Bonadio cracked a two-out single to score Marra and McClain helped his own cause with a run-scoring single to bring Bonadio home.
“There is never a safe lead when you play Hopewell. Our guys answered the bell,” complimented Yohman. “It’s a testament to Hopewell last night (in the losers’ bracket final). The kept chipping away and won in their last at-bat.
“We knew these guys wouldn’t quit.”
With Uniontown threatening to invoke the mercy rule, Hopewell prolonged the game with three runs in the top of the sixth inning.
McClain walked Landon Fox and Steven Slate to start the inning. McClain struck out Ty Eberhardt and got Ashton Katcher to fly out to Chambers in left field.
But, Dylan Katcher cracked a double to the center field fence to bring home Fox and Slate. Then, Mike Buonaito followed with a run-scoring single to knock McClain out of the game.
“When I went to talk to him the first time (in the sixth inning), his pitch count was getting up. I wanted him to get one more batter,” said Yohman. “Then, I brought Joe (Chambers) to shut them down.”
Chambers got LaSala looking to end the threat.
As they had throughout the game, Uniontown responded one more time with three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Scott opened the inning with a walk and Chambers singled Scott to third base. Gillott’s fly ball scored Scott, and Sankovich dumped a run-scoring single into left field.
Bonadio singled home Sankovich for the third run of the inning.
Hopewell scored one more run in the top of the seventh inning, but Chambers ended the game in style with a strikeout.