Delweld’s players and coaching staff watched a familiar sight early Sunday evening as their counterparts from Baltimore celebrated yet another AAABA Tournament championship near the first base dugout at Point Stadium.
The Johnstown squad quietly observed, perhaps pondering what might have been following a pair of championship round losses to Youse’s Maryland Orioles in the 69th annual AAABA Tournament.
“I hope that today doesn’t wash out what we were able to accomplish in this tournament,” said Delweld right fielder Nate Campbell, who batted .556 in the tournament and was a defensive asset. “We wanted to win it for the city. We came up short. But we really do appreciate the support we had all week long.”
Delweld accomplished plenty in another solid effort by the local franchise despite falling 12-5 in front of an estimated 3,000 fans at the first game and 13-3 in seven innings in the second contest.
Manager Chris DelSignore’s team won its first five games of the tournament, becoming only the second Johnstown team to accomplish the feat in 69 years.
Delweld was the sixth Johnstown team to advance to the championship round.
Half of those title-round appearances were made by Delweld representatives (2003, 2010, 2013).
Baltimore won its 29th AAABA Tournament championship in its 35th appearance in the title round.
“We didn’t get it done today. It hurts, but these are the things that keep us moving, ” said DelSignore, whose 23 AAABA Tournament wins are the most by any Johnstown manager.
Delweld had defeated Baltimore 7-5 on Friday, which meant Youse’s Maryland Orioles needed to beat the Johnstown team twice on Sunday to claim the title.
“We came out with the mind-set, ‘We’re going to play two. Let’s take care of Game 1 first.’ By no means was that easy but we just tried to stay focused on the task at hand,” said Baltimore first baseman Ryan Ripken, the tournament MVP and RBIs leader. “We tried to stay relaxed. We didn’t do anything different. It worked for us.”
Delweld continued its torrid tournament pace by sending nine men to the plate and scoring three runs in the top of the first in Game 1.
Ian Helsel doubled to the wall in left-center field to drive in a run, and Luke Campbell had a run-scoring single in the inning.
But the damage might have been worse. Delweld left the bases loaded in the first and eventually stranded 13 base runners in the opener.
Still, the hosts led 5-2 through 4 1⁄2 innings after Austin Sleek singled in a run in the third and Marcus Shippey hit a controversial home run to the short porch in right field in the fifth.
Shippey lofted a fly that wrapped around the foul pole in short right field and landed in the seats near the front row of the balcony. The umpire initially signaled home run, briefly changed his call to a ground-rule double and after a discussion with the crew, ruled it a homer.
“We got the start that we wanted to have,” DelSignore said. “Unfortunately at the halfway point the wheels kind of fell off.
“Too many free bases. Some errors. They’re too good of a team. You have to play perfect. You have to throw strikes. You have to work ahead. They got too many favorable hitting counts.”
Baltimore scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth on only one hit. Johnstown was hurt by three walks and two hit batsmen in the frame as Youse’s took a 6-5 lead.
“The momentum-changer was the home run call,” Baltimore coach Jason King said. “The boys got a little fired up. They thought it went through the fence but the umpire didn’t see it that way. They started to bear down, a couple walks, a couple key hits. An inning or two later, Ripken got the bases-clearing hit. That was big. We got good pitching too.”
In the sixth, Baltimore added four more runs on three hits, including Ripken’s three-run double deep into the right field corner.
Brady Sheetz and Brendan Butler each doubled in a two-run eighth to set the final in Game 1.
“Luck just wasn’t on our side and things just fell apart for us,” said Delweld catcher-DH Luke Campbell. whose 12 RBIs were second to Ripken’s 13 in the tournament. “All four wheels fell off and we were stranded there. But it doesn’t take anything away from what we have done this year.”
Youse’s took the large and enthusiastic crowd out of the game late in the opener and then used a six-run first inning in the second game to put Johnstown in a big hole.
“That was key. We told the guys if we could get out of the first inning with no runs or one run and then come in and swing the bats, that might put them behind the 8-ball,” King said. “It did. We got six early. You could kind of feel the stadium deflated a little bit.”
Kyle Convissar’s three-run homer gave Baltimore a 9-0 lead in the third, and Monte Wade doubled and scored on a Ripken single in the fourth. Butler homered for Baltimore in the two-run seventh.
Helsel, Luke Campbell and Drew Hemminger each singled in the fourth for a Johnstown run. Luke Campbell hit a solo homer in the sixth, and Nate Campbell walked and scored on a Luke Campbell single in the seventh.
Baltimore right-hander Brian Murphy pitched six innings and was the winner in the opener, and Conor LeBlanc threw 6 1⁄3 innings to win Game 2.
“They’re a team you really can’t afford to play lax against defensively or on the mound,” Nate Campbell said of Youse’s. “They were able to take advantage of some miscues we had. Sometimes that’s all it takes.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/@masty81.