CHARLEROI — Masontown traveled to Charleroi last summer with the chance to close out the Fayette County Baseball League championship, but Mitch’s Bail Bonds extended the series with a contentious 4-3 victory.
Masontown, the defending champions, traveled to Veterans Memorial Field on Monday evening with the opportunity to clinch the league title, and Mitch’s Bail Bonds once again extended the series to a final game with a well-played and well-pitched 2-1 victory in Game 4.
The final game in the best-of-5 series — and of the 2021 season — moved to Masontown Tuesday night.
“That was the plan. That’s what we hoped for,” said Mitch’s Bail Bonds manager Ryan Encapera. “We know as the series goes along, it’s good for us.
“We have depth. Every game someone different has stepped up for us.”
The difference in the game was the stellar effort from Mitch’s Bail Bonds pitcher Noah Hansen and the timely hitting by the Magicians.
“The story of the game was Noah,” said Encapera. “He was under 80 pitches. We played clean defense. Noah was around the plate and efficient.”
As for the home team’s offense, Mitch’s Bail Bonds put together quick rallies for a 2-0 lead.
Ethan Coddington opened the bottom of the second inning with a single. Isaac Echard followed with a hit that scooted between Masontown left fielder Chad Petrush and center fielder Kaine Frye all the way to the fence. Coddington sprinted around the bases to score the game’s first run without a throw.
Echard was stranded at second base with Masontown’s Nick Groover striking out the side.
Mitch’s Bail Bonds put together a two-out rally in the bottom of the third inning to score the eventual winning run.
Brody Bonadio singled up the middle to get things going for the home team and moved to second base on Kaleb Scott’s single to left field.
Hansen dumped a single into right field. Reed Long’s throw to catcher Zach Uhazie was to the third base side of the plate. Bonadio deftly slid around Uhazie, kicking up a dust storm as he reached back for the plate with his left hand.
“They put a couple hits together in a couple innings and scored,” said Masontown manager John Palmer.
Hansen, with the help of his defense, shut down Masontown through the first four innings. Hansen allowed one-out singles to Kaine Frye in the first and fourth innings and an inning-opening walk to Austin Bergman in the fourth inning, but Frye was erased both times on inning-ending 4-6-3 double plays.
The left-hander retired the side in order in both the second and third innings with four of the six outs on fly balls to the outfield, and that had John Palmer frustrated.
“We had too many popups and too many fly balls,” said Palmer. “We’ve hit three home runs in the series. It seems like we’re going for the fence, instead of playing Masontown baseball. We need to hit the ball hard, make them catch it and make a throw.”
Masontown finally got to Hansen in the top of the fifth inning on Nate Zimcosky’s solo home run over the left field fence.
Hansen kept Masontown at bay over the final two innings, allowing only Bergman’s two-out single in the top of the sixth inning. He closed the game in style with a strikeout.
Groover was equally effective over his final three innings. The right-hander walked Eric Soccio and hit Fred Conrad in the bottom of the fourth inning, but got out of trouble with a pair of strikeouts.
Groover struck out two batters in the fifth inning and stranded a runner in the sixth inning to keep it a one-run game.
Hansen and Groover were so efficient the game was ended in just over an hour. Hansen allowed four hits, walked one and struck out three, while Groover gave up seven hits, walked one, hit one batter and struck out seven.
“Nick pitched a strong game,” complimented John Palmer. “It’s a shame all the games that boy pitches and we just can’t put up runs. I feel so bad for him.”
John Palmer acknowledged he had a bit of a deja vu sense with the 2021 series following the same pattern as 2020, with one different twist, though. John and Willie Palmer were tossed from the second game last year and were not eligible to participate in the third and final game won by Masontown.
“It’s the same situation (as last year). It’s just more games,” John Palmer said of the best-of-5 series. “And, this year I can coach.”
Encapera looks to go out with a win — and a championship — in what he has said will be his final game as manager. He will remain as league president.
“This is my last game. Everyone is here for a reason. They belong. They make us competitive,” said Encapera.