By Rob Potter
HURLEY May 27, 2005 The Eldred Yellowjackets traveled a long way for Wednesday afternoons Section IX Class D baseball semifinal game against host John A. Coleman Catholic High School.
The trip back home probably seemed a bit longer for the Yellowjackets after they suffered a one-run defeat in extra innings.
Coleman, the number one seed in the Class D tourney, scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to edge Eldred by a final score of 6-5. With the victory, the Statesmen advanced to the Class D championship game. Coleman (13-8) will meet third-seeded Chapel Field for the sectional title at 4 p.m. today at Gruner Field in Lake Katrine.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Statesmen scored two runs to knot the score at 4-4. With two outs and the bases loaded, Matthew King ripped a single to right field that allowed James Jerkowski and Mark Chasi to cross home plate.
Both teams put runners on base in the seventh inning, but the pitchers Mike Prunka for Eldred and Ryan Johnson for Coleman were able to get out of the frame unscathed.
Eldred (4-13), which was the fourth-seed in the tournament, took a 5-4 lead in the top of the eighth. George Fountain led off the inning with a solid single to right field and Brian Daboul entered the game to run for Fountain. The next batter, Tony Van Zaten, then hit a dribbler that stopped in the grass along the first base line about 15 feet from home plate. Van Zaten sprinted to first and Daboul hustled to second base before any of the Statesmen could field the ball.
Johnson then got a fielders choice groundout and a strikeout, leaving two Yellowjackets on the basepaths.
But then Prunka helped his own cause by ripping a double to left field. Van Zaten scored on the play to give the Yellowjackets a one-run advantage.
However, Matthew Smith and Chasi began the bottom of the eighth with back to back singles. Guido Liberati grounded out to Eldred second baseman Van Zaten, but Smith scored on the play to tie the game.
Moments later, King hit a ground ball to Van Zaten who immediately fired the ball to home plate. But Chasi was able to score the game-winning run when he was able to slide under Yellowjacket catcher J.T. Vogt and touch the plate before Vogt could apply the tag.
I feel pretty lucky to come out of this game with a win, Coleman Coach Brad Johnson said. They had us on the ropes a couple of times. They took the lead in the top of the eighth, but then our kids came right back in the bottom of the inning to win it. We just made the plays when we had to.
Johnson was very impressed with the Yellowjackets, whom he described as a class team. He particularly noted the pitching talent displayed by Prunka, who had six strikeouts in the game.
I think hes the best pitcher we have faced [this season], and we played some Class A and B teams, Johnson said. He is a very good pitcher. He did a great job today and kept his team in the game.
The Coleman coach also had words of praise for his son, Ryan Johnson, a senior who will be playing college baseball team at Clarkson, a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III school in Potsdam.
He pitched well and kept us in the game, Brad Johnson said of Ryan Johnson, who struck out eight Yellowjackets.
Eldred took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when Prunka scored on a base hit by Patrick Kean.
Coleman regained the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Rich Sofia had an RBI single and then scored on a single to left field by Smith.
The Yellowjackets responded with three runs in the top of the fifth. With one out and the bases loaded, Nick McCormick drew a walk that allowed Walter Kreidel to trot home from third base. Prunka then scored on an error and Kean crossed home plate when Taylor Diuguid hit a fielders choice to shortstop.
It was a tough game, Eldred Coach Frank Kean said. Both teams deserve a lot of credit. We were down 2-1 and came back to take a 4-2 lead. But then they came back to tie it at 4-4. And when we took a 5-4 lead in the eighth, they came right back with two runs to win it.
Like Brad Johnson, Kean complimented Prunkas performance on the mound.
Mike threw a great game, he said. He really kept us in it.
Kean also noted that his entire team played with heart and determination.
Our guys played well, but it just didnt work out for us today, he said.