The 20th edition of the annual Boswell Jaycees Baseball Classic high school tournament featured the return of three of the coaches from the 1994 tournament, an appearance by former Pittsburgh Pirates 1979 World Series champion closer Kent Tekulve and a first-time winner.
Ligonier Valley (11-4), which claimed its first-ever tournament title with a 5-3 victory over Forest Hills in the championship game, had just one earned run on four hits but was able to take advantage of seven Rangers’ errors.
“We preach to the kids that we don’t want to give up any freebies - walks, errors and mental mistakes, but we also harp on them that when somebody leaves the door open, we have to kick it the rest of the way open and we tried to do that today,” Ligonier Valley coach John Jones said. “Their pitcher (Gavin Oswalt) kept them in the game. The dam started to leak, but he never let it break.
“It’s really good to get this win up here. The kids worked really hard and we are a young team and we’ve been coming together. Facing good competition like this is the best thing for these kids. This is top-notch competition at this tournament and to get out of our conference and face some of these quality teams up here, it’s a confidence builder for us.”
Rams junior Luke Ferlin, who was 2-for-3, both doubles, and scored three runs, was selected the MVP of the tournament.
“This was a big game for us,” Ferlin said. “These guys are Class AAA and are better than any team that we’ve played thus far so it means a lot to us to get this win. Everyone was hitting the ball and forcing them to make plays and got on base. I was seeing the ball well and jumped on his fastballs.”
Forest Hills coach Joe Carpenter said that the errors just killed his team and overshadowed a strong outing by his pitcher Gavin Oswalt, who gave up just two hits while striking out five. Oswalt was selected the tournament’s most valuable pitcher.
“We just donated errors. We just couldn’t make a play,” Carpenter said. “That hasn’t been our M.O. this year, we’ve been very good defensively. It was frustrating because they all took their turns at committing errors and still we only lost 5-3. We dug a whole and couldn’t come out of it. The kids kept playing. We are much better than we showed in that game.”
Four Forest Hills errors in the second inning helped the Rams put three runs on the board.
In the third, a walk to Ferlin, a Jake Nemeth hit and another Rangers’ miscue helped Ligonier Valley increase its advantage to 4-0.
The Sidman squad (7-3) got on the board in the fourth as Tanner Polinski walked and went to second on a balk called on Ligonier Valley starter Rick Ross. An Alex Murphy single scored Polinski, but Forest Hills left the bases loaded and was unable to tally any more runs in the frame.
Ferlin’s first double and another Forest Hills miscue helped Ligonier Valley pad its lead in the fifth.
For Forest HIlls in the sixth, walks to Zach Shearman and Logan Madison and a passed ball put two Rangers in scoring position. Luke McCormick delivered a single to score Shearman and a groundout brought home Madison to pull the Rangers to within one.
But another Ferlin double and a single by Jordan Jones in the seventh again gave the Rams a two-run cushion. Ligonier Valley reliever Andrew Shultz coaxed three groundouts in the bottom of the inning to end the game.
Ferlin and Oswalt were selected players of the game for their respective teams.
Earlier in the day, former Greater Johnstown coach Dee Dee Osborne, Conemaugh Township coach Sam Zambanini and former North Star coach Skip Spangler made appearances but former Laurel Valley coach Jerry Page was unable to attend.
Tekulve stayed for several hours signing autographs.
In the consolation game, Shane Supanick struck out 11 as North Star defeated Bishop Walsh 4-1.
“That’s par for the course from Shane; that’s what we expect,” said North Star coach Chris Evans about his pitcher. “He had a pretty decent outing on the mound.”
The Cougars (7-3) put a pair of runs on the board in the third as Brady Walker got a base hit, Von Yoder walked and Kyle Supanick had a base hit to load the bases. Dalton Rice delivered a two-RBI single for the 2-0 advantage.
North Star added another run in the fourth and one in the sixth. Nick Mazzeo scored the Spartans run in the bottom of the seventh to avert the shutout.
Shane Supanick and the Spartans’ Dylan Wilson were selected as players of the game.
“We both got beat pretty hard in our first games and we just told our kids not to take that too lightly,” Evans said. “They got beat by 10 and so did we. We told them to got out and play their hardest and not make too many mistakes like we did in the first game.”
In the early games, Forest Hills downed the host Cougars 15-5 while the Rams beat the Spartans 14-3 in five innings.
“This was a great tournament this year,” said Classic Director John Zadzora, one of the event’s founders. “To do this tournament, you have to have a lot of help, the Jaycees, the North Star baseball team, the coaches and players and the booster club. One guy just can’t do it.
“I enjoyed the day.”
Notes: North Star’s Derek Mullen received the Damian Leonard award. ...Players of the early games included Mullen and Forest Hills’ Blaine Harteis in Game 1 along with Jordan Jones of Ligonier Valley and Zack Ruppencamp of Bishop Walsh in the second game.