BEECH CREEK - The Jersey Shore American Legion Post 36 Junior baseball squad lives to play another day.
With their backs to the wall after falling back into the losers' bracket with a 3-1 loss to Beech Creek Tuesday night at Jersey Shore, the Shoremen turned the tables on the Junior Crickets with a 5-3 win Thursday night.
With the win, Shore stays alive, forcing the final game Friday night on the Shore field.
"We are both even now so tomorrow's game is winner take all," Shore manager Steve Welsh said. "I think the big difference tonight was that we seemed to be more focused than we were on Tuesday. We hit the ball hard and we also got an excellent pitching performance from Boone Costa."
Although his squad couldn't close out the league title and the right to advance to the regional tournament next week in Shillington, Cricket manager Joe Caprio feels good about his team's chances in the rubber game between the two teams.
"This game tomorrow is winner take all," Caprio said. "Like I said on Tuesday, I knew it was going to be tough to beat them two in a row and as it turned out, we didn't. They capitalized on their opportunities and we couldn't on ours and the scoreboard shows that."
Costa went the distance to pick up the win, the diminutive right-hander allowing Beech Creek three runs on a half dozen hits while walking four and striking out three. He also hit three BC batters.
"He (Costa) pitched a whale of a game," Welsh said. "He got a little tired toward the end of the game when they scored their three runs, but for the most part, he carried us to this win."
If their was a downside to the Shore win, it was that they left eight runners on base, five of the eight in scoring position.
"We were fortunate that it didn't jump up and bite us," Welsh said about stranding the runners. "But regardless of that, it was just real nice to get the win after what happened to us on Tuesday when we didn't hit."
Shore wound up with a total of seven base hits, but the key was that three of the seven were extra-base hits with men on base that produced runs.
"We knew we were going to hit," said Welsh. "It was just a matter of us getting out here and playing again."
While Shore scored on its opportunities, the lack of situational hitting hurt the Crickets as they left 11 runners stranded on the basepaths.
"Yeah, we got popups and a strikeout here and there and in the end, that is going to hurt you," Caprio said about the missed opportunities. "Realistically, in the first inning we were one foot away from a good throw or it might have been a 3-3 ball game."
Shore broke on top in the first inning when Costa reached on an error, Zach Miller walked and Brody Smith drove Costa in with a fielder's choice groundball. Levi Lorson delivered a big RBI double just inside the right field line on the heels of Smith's RBI to chase Miller home for the 2-0 Shore lead.
Shore added another run in the fourth when Trey Newcomer led off with a sharp single off the third baseman's glove, was sacrificed to second by Travis Bradley and scored on Ryan Anderson's RBI single to right.
With Costa still holding the Crickets off the scoreboard, Shore kept adding on with single runs in the sixth and seventh inning.
With one out in the sixth, Bradley crushed a ball to the fence in right-centerfield for a triple and scored when River Haines followed with a clutch RBI single to right.
In the seventh, Costa followed suit to Bradley's big hit when he belted another triple to right, Costa later scooting home on a wild pitch to make it 5-0 Shore heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Not willing to walk away without a battle, the Crickets made things somewhat interesting in the bottom of the seventh, when they took advantage of a pair of walks, a laser to left off the bat of Darrin Masorti that was misplayed allowing both Ethan McGill and David Kohen to score.
Bryce Hanley followed Masorti's bullet with a RBI single to right, but the tying run at the plate, Costa reached back to retire Zach Skrtich on a fly ball to center before coaxing Taylor Leitzel to bounce into a game-ending fielder's choice.
As for pitching, Caprio likes where his staff is heading into the title game.
"Pitching wise we are in real good shape," Caprio said. "We have the same two that we had Tuesday ready to go, plus we have the one guy who came in relief today ready to go. I pulled him so that if needed, he would be ready to do a couple of innings for us tomorrow."
First pitch for the title game and a trip to the regional tournament is set for 5:30 p.m. tonight on the JS Athletic Field.