HOPWOOD — Uniontown scored first and never trailed as the host team opened the Region 6 American Legion Baseball Tournament Sunday afternoon with an 8-1 victory over Smithfield-Fairchance.
Uniontown advances to the finals of the winners’ bracket against Brighton Township on Monday at 1 p.m. Brighton Township advanced with a 15-3 win over Charleroi.
Smithfield-Fairchance returned later Sunday to play Hopewell in the losers’ bracket.
“It’s great to just play a game after the bye and the rain delay,” said Uniontown manager Brad Yohman. “The guys were chomping at the bit. Our kids were ready to go.
“It happened to be against a league rival. We knew we had to rise to the challenge. We knew we had to execute.”
Uniontown was the visiting team and put together a run without a hit against Smithfield-Fairchance starter Trey Coville.
Gage Gillott, in his first game of the season, was hit with the first pitch of the game. He was forced at second on Ty Sankovich’s attempted sacrifice bunt.
Santino Marra and Cole Shearer walked to load the bases. Smithfield-Fairchance tried to turn a double play on Brady Bonadio’s ground ball to shortstop but he beat the throw as Sankovich scored.
Uniontown’s only hit of the second inning produced a run.
Tyler Becker walked to open the inning and Braeden O’Brien followed with a long RBI double to increase the lead to 2-0.
Sankovich cracked a double to center field that drove in O’Brien to give Uniontown a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.
The game didn’t start out quite the way Smithfield-Fairchance manager Steve Strange had hoped.
“We wanted to jump on them early and hang on as long as we could,” Strange said.
Bonadio gave Uniontown some more breathing room with a two-run home run in the top of the fifth inning.
“That was our first home run of the season,” said Yohman. “That opened the game up.”
Smithfield-Fairchance cracked the scoreboard with a run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Wes Over walked with one out and moved to second on Tristian Robinson’s single. Over then came home on Ben Diamond’s single. Shea lined out to shortstop Sankovich to end the inning.
“The at-bat of the game was Shea hitting the line drive at Sankovich. That was a tricky spot right there. That allows me not to bring another pitcher in,” said Yohman.
Uniontown added three insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning.
Shearer started the inning with a single and Bonadio followed with a walk. CJ Gesk hit through the hole between first and second base to load the bases with one out.
O’Brien walked to bring home Shearer. Gillott capped the late rally with a two-run single.
“We opened the game up with the three-spot. That late rally really helped us,” said Yohman. “No lead is safe against a team like Smithfield-Fairchance.”
Yohman had nothing but praise for starting pitcher Kaleb Scott who went the distance, allowing six hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
“Kaleb pitched his butt off. He’s one of our 19-year-olds. Having Kaleb get us to this spot was huge,” praised Yohman.
“It is frustrating,” Strange said of the lack of hits. “Our guys fought hard. I just think we weren’t able to string those hits together in one inning, but (Scott) pitched a great game.”
Coville pitched five innings, allowing four runs on five hits.
“We were going down with the guy who has been our best arm, no matter what,” Strange said of Coville.
Looking ahead to Sunday night’s losers’ bracket game, Strange said, “With Pegg, it works out with him under 45 (pitches). With a doubleheader, he can pitch up to 105 (pitches) in relief. We’ll probably start Dylan Shea.
“We just need to clear our heads and come back.”