Delweld and Martella’s Pharmacy.
Most AAABA League seasons, it always seems to come down to this match up in the final round.
At least it’s been that way during seven of the past 11 years.
“I don’t envision it being any different than the last six that we’ve played,” Delweld manager Chris DelSignore said. “There are going to be two teams out there that have a lot of history. They’re going to go out there and try to put the other one down.”
Game 1 of the best-of-5 championship series will begin at 7 p.m. tonight at Point Stadium. Regular-season champion Delweld and runner-up Martella’s each swept through their first-round semifinals.
Each team will make its eighth AAABA Tournament appearance with the 69th annual event opens on Aug. 5.
The regular-season and playoff champions each advance to the tournament. Should Delweld win both titles, then Martella’s moves on as the playoff runner-up.
“Both franchises have been fortunate over the years to have a great support system, a great line of assistant coaches and a number of people who have helped with recruiting,” said Chris Pfeil, veteran manager of Martella’s and its predecessor, the Johnstown Grays. “We’ve been blessed with talented players. It’s as good of a rivalry as this league has seen. I’m sure it’s going to be an exciting week of baseball.”
Delweld (25-9, 3-0 playoffs) is led by AAABA League MVP Josh Staniscia, a center fielder who batted .413 (43-for-104), ranking second in the league. Staniscia also was among league leaders with 32 runs (third), three home runs (tie for first), and 29 RBI (tie for second).
DelSignore’s team also has Ian Helsel (.358 batting average) and Eric Weyant (.352 average, league-best 40 runs scored), Matt Martin (29 RBI) and Ben Legath (three homers)
“Offensively we got out of the gate early on this season,” DelSignore said. “We were scoring a lot of runs. For the most part we’ve been able to stay consistent offensively.
“One through nine we’ve got a lot of good hitters who have shown numerous times they are able to get big hits. They’re a patient and resilient bunch.”
Those hitters will face a formidable one-two combination. Martella’s (22-12, 3-0) has the league’s past two Pete Vuckovich Award winners.
This year, Mike Mulvey took the Vuckovich Award as the league’s top pitcher with five regular-season wins and a 1.67 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 42 innings.
Younker took the 2012 Vuckovich honor and followed up with six victories this regular-season.
“To have two guys like that on the staff is a plus,” Pfeil said. “Rylan Schnably also has had a great season for us (four wins, 1.05 ERA). Nick Cubarney had a huge game for us in the playoff series. The guys in the bullpen have been able to come in and do the job and get us out of jams.”
Martella’s had the league’s leading hitter in Dillon Boyer, who batted .416
(37-for-89) and scored 31 runs. Tony Strasiser had a .355 average, Gully batted .321, Anthony Fanelli hit .315, and Luke Williams, .305. Fanelli, Williams and Cam Onderko each hit two homers.
“Martella’s always seems to have a tight group over there,” DelSignore said. “That’s because of their coaching staff. They have that ability to stay together. They don’t quit. just when you think you have them down, they claw back. That’s been a trait of all those teams we’ve seen over the years.”
Delweld overcame adversity that might have devastated other pitching staffs. DelSignore lost four quality pitchers who each had opportunities to advance their respective careers.
Bobby Carbaugh (Futures Collegiate League) and Derrick Capiak (Cape Cod Collegiate Wooden Bat League) each left for other leagues at the instruction of their college coaches. The Atlanta Braves drafted Ian Stiffler, and last week, former ace Andy Smithmyer signed a contract with the independent Frontier League Washington Wild Things.
“No question, they’ve had guys who have done a great job of stepping up and filling their roles,” Pfeil said. “Those guys have thrown and limited the amount of walks they’ve allowed. Defensively they’ve played great all season.”
Marcus Shippey tossed a
12-strikeout, no-hitter among his four regular-season victories and won in the playoffs. Legath had four wins, and Brad Ditzler, Joel Polites and Austin Sleek each had three wins during the regular seasons.
“It starts by having depth,” DelSignore said. “Going into the season we had a deep staff. You lose those four guys. ... We were just fortunate enough to have quality guys behind those pitchers. They were able to step into the roles that were left.”
In addition to the major award winners, Delweld (Weyant, Legath, Shippey, Ditzler and Helsel) and Martella’s (Gully, Strasiser, Schnably, Younker and Andrew Keirn) each placed five players on the All-AAABA League first team.
“Year-in and year-out they’re experienced. They have guys who have been on this stage before, as we do,” Pfeil said. “Usually when we play each other, it comes down to the team that executes and gets the hits with guys in scoring position.”