JERSEY SHORE - Although it took six innings to complete the game, it basically took only one inning to determine the winner.
Sending 13 batters to the dish in the first inning, Jersey Shore scored nine runs en route to a 10-0 mercy-rule win over Watsontown in a losers' bracket game of the 2012 West Branch American Legion Junior Division tournament Wednesday night.
"It (the big early lead) was nice to give us a bit of relief and when you score that many runs early, it takes the pressure off," Shore head coach Steve Welsh said. "We had a chance to get some guys a few innings pitching and everybody seemed to hit well tonight so we are ready to go."
Following the game, Watsontown manager Bob Frey admitted that the big hole his team dug for itself made things difficult from the start.
"We had one of our better pitchers pitching tonight and when they hit the ball like they did and jump on you early, it takes the wind out of your sails" Frey said. "Give Jersey Shore a lot of credit because they came out and hit the ball hard. After that (first) inning, we settled down and only gave them one run the rest of the way, but that is baseball."
In addition to staying alive in the playoffs, one big factor in the Shore win was that Welsh and his staff had an opportunity to clear the bench and give everybody some playing time.
"I was hoping that I got that chance tonight and when I put them (the reserves) in, they played well," Welsh said. "It is not always easy to do that in the playoffs, but tonight, I got all of them in and they all got some at-bats as well as the opportunity to play in the field. It was nice to be able to do that."
For Shore, it was their third game in as many days and when you are in the league playoffs, pitching sometimes becomes a question mark. However, for Welsh and his crew, several guys who don't get a lot of time on the bump took the ball and did a good job.
"Eric (Huling) pitched three strong innings," Welsh said about his starter. "He did a really nice job, mixing his changeup and his fastball up and the same with Brody (Smith). He was mixing his stuff well and then Trey Newcomer came on in relief and did a fine job there in the last inning to close it out."
Huling allowed one hit while facing the minimum nine batters in his three-inning stint, Smith gave up a harmless single in his two innings while striking out three Post 323 hitters and Newcomer issued only a base on balls in his inning, while striking out a pair.
While Huling, Smith and Newcomer laid down the law on the bump, their teammates were busy smacking the ball around the diamond as they rapped out 11 base hits in the six innings.
Leading the offensive assault for Shore was Zach Miller as he finished with a 3-for-4 night that included a pair of singles and a triple good for four RBI. Joining Miller in the Shore hit parade was Huling, perfect at 2-for-2 with a single and double good for two RBI, while also scoring a pair of runs, and Levi Lorson also stroked a pair of singles in the win.
Completing the list of Shore hitters were Boone Costa, Newcomer, Lance Welsh and Bronson Bass with singles along with a double off the bat of Haydn Swartwood.
Watsontown could only muster a pair of hits off the trio of Shore hurlers, an infield single by Nathan Keiser in the first and a single to left by Connor Pelletier in the fourth.
"They (Shore pitchers) pitched well against us and we didn't have an answer for them," Frey said. "When you are down 9-0, all you do is try and get some momentum going but with the pitching they had, we couldn't get anything started."
With the win, Post 36 advances to the first of a possible two title games when they host unbeaten Beech Creek for the second time in three days.
First pitch for that game is set for 5:30 p.m. tonight on the Shore Athletic Field.
"Yeah, seeing them (Beech Creek) again is what makes it so much fun," Welsh said. "You bring the best of both teams together on the field at the same time and you just have to go with what got you here. We are looking forward to it."
A win by the junior Crickets gives them the title and a trip to the regionals, while a Shore win would set up a winner-takes-all game on the Shore field Friday night at 5:30 p.m.