JERSEY SHORE - For the second time in forty-eight hours, the Jersey Shore and Watsontown Junior Legion baseball teams squared off against each other, and although the games took different routes to completion, both times the results were much the same.
In Saturday's matchup, Shore defeated Watsontown by a 15-2 final in five innings in the regular season finale. Although it wasn't pretty at times, Monday night it was again Post 36 coming out on top of Post 323, this time by the final of 8-5 in the semifinal round of the West Branch League playoffs.
With the win, Shore advances to the winners' bracket game of the West Branch League playoffs to face Beech Creek, that game slated for tonight with a first pitch set for 5:30 p.m. on the JS High School Athletic Field.
Beech Creek advanced to the winners' bracket final when it received a forfeit win from South Williamsport in the semis.
"It was a win for us and we need to take the positives out of it," Shore head coach Steve Welsh said. "We were down a little bit and we were a little bit flat. We have really good players and in the end, they came through for us to get us the win."
As for the difference in tempo of the two games, Welsh thought it might have been due to the after effects of the huge margin of victory Saturday.
"That might have had something to do with it because we were just a little bit flat coming out tonight," Welsh said. "We got three runs early and then we kind of sat on that lead for a while. But in the end, we scored more runs when we needed them and that was good to see."
Shore jumped on top 3-0 in the first inning when they took advantage of a walk to Boone Costa followed by four straight hits from Zach Miller, Brody Smith, Levi Lorson and Trey Newcomer for the quick 3-0 lead.
With Shore starter Zach Miller mowing down the Watsontown hitters through the first four innings, Shore tacked on another run in the fourth when Ryan Anderson walked and scored on a RBI single to left by Miller.
For his four innings of work, Miller faced 16 batters, surrendering just a pair of hits and no runs. The big righthander struck out four Post 323 batters while issuing a pair of free passes.
"That is only his second appearance (on the bump) but he has done real well for us," Welsh said. "He had an injury earlier in the season and he came to me and told me he was ready to go. He went two innings on Saturday and four today so he appears to be ready to go."
Still trailing by the 4-0 count after five innings, Watsontown picked up its first run in the sixth when Shore reliever Smith experienced control problems by issuing three walks.
"Brody has had a big layoff and I think it affected him," Welsh said. "We had so many games cancelled and he has been away on vacation so we haven't had that many opportunities to get him in there. He definitely struggled, but that was his first outing in about three weeks. He is a good, solid athlete so he will bounce back."
Welsh decided to hand the ball to Costa, and the diminutive righthander used a pair of strikeouts and a fly out to avoid further trouble.
Not to let things get away from them, Shore put the bats to good use in the bottom of the sixth to double its run total with a four-spot.
Travis Bradley led off with a double and Anderson and Costa drew back-to-back walks to "juice" the sacks. Eric Huling rose to the occasion as he belted a two-run single to left. Smith followed with a sacrifice fly to left and Levin Lorson capped the uprising with a RBI single to center.
"We were able to add on some runs there in the end when we needed them," Welsh said. "We had some guys who gave us some really big hits to get us going."
With Shore holding an 8-1 lead, Costa was nicked for four runs in the seventh when he issued a pair of walks, hit one batter and gave up two hits, the big blow a bases-clearing three-run triple to left by Teddy Bender.
"Boone (Costa) closed it out for us and he did a nice job," Welsh said. "He usually has a little better control than he did tonight, but he is a tremendous athlete and he always finds a way to get the job done."
Leading the eight-hit Shore attack were Miller and Lorson with a pair of hits apiece. Miller finished with 2-for-3 with two singles and a pair of RBI, while Lorson went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles good for three RBI.
"Those two guys get it done for us," Welsh said. "In addition to his two hits, Levi hit two shots that were caught. He (Lorson) hit the ball and Zach (Miller) always hits the ball hard. He (Miller) is the best hitter on our team and not only does he hit the ball hard, he finds the gaps. He is a big, strong kid with a lot of power."
As for facing Beech Creek, Welsh was quick to point that Shore's foe will certainly not be a stranger to his club.
"We faced them three times already this year," he said. "They are a very good team, but I feel we are ready to face them again. They have a solid bunch of athletes as we do, so we are going to have to play our best game if we want to come out with a win."