Meadville Tribune


June 30, 2014

Cochranton smacks three homers in win

VERNON TOWNSHIP — The Cochranton Little League All-Stars were dealing out some damage with the bats on Monday. And not in a figurative sense, either. Cochranton was quite literally dealing out damage with the bats.

Facing Vernon in a District 1 showdown at Roche Park yesterday, Cochranton had one foul ball scatter the condiments off the counter at the concession stand.

A home run shortly thereafter barely missed a spectator sitting beyond the fence in center field, leaving a nice green scuff mark on the arm of her camp chair.

And finally, another Cochranton home run shattered the taillight of a P.T. Cruiser that was parked at the playground across the road from the ballpark.

Of course, all that fence-clearing and metal-clanging and fan-spooking took a figurative toll as well, at least on Vernon. Cochranton’s three solo dingers were enough to move the Cardinals on to the        winner’s bracket final with a 3-0 victory over Vernon.

“Yeah, that’s one way to win it,” said Cochranton head coach Matt Bernarding. “It’s not the way we were looking to do it.”

Bernarding said he was just happy his squad got anything off of Vernon pitcher Landon Beck.

“The Beck kid was as advertised, even better than I thought,” said Bernarding, “He’s the real deal.”

Beck went all six innings, allowed six hits, walked just one batter and struck out 11.

Of course, the Redbirds’ efforts on the mound was pretty darn solid as well. Starter Curtis Freyermuth went scoreless through 3 1/3 innings, allowing two hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. And Ian Haynes picked up the save, pitching the final 2 2/3 with one hit allowed, one walk and four Ks.

The difference was, Cochranton’s sluggers got ahold of three of Beck’s offerings and made the very most out of them.

The wreckage began with two outs in the first. Cochranton’s Josh Merchbaker sent a foul ball off for a hot dog. It ended up crashing into the counter of the concession stand, knocking around the napkin holder and a few squeeze bottles full of ketchup and mustard.

Merchbaker straightened his aim considerably for the next pitch, taking it to straight-away center where it skidded off the arm of the above-mentions folding chair and put the Cards up 1-0.

“Josh Merchbaker is the youngest kid on the team,” said Bernarding. “It’s all or nothing with that boy. The next pitch he hits out after hitting the gum bucket in the concession stand.

“First time I’d ever seen that,” he laughed

Cochranton got its second solo round trip in the second inning. Logan Nemeth led it off, parking a high Beck offering over the right field fence. This would end up being the safest landing of the evening thanks to a spectator who made a nice bare-handed catch on the ball. The Cards were now up 2-0.

Finally, in the fifth, Freyermuth cost someone about $300 at the body shop after zapping a low and outside pitch to dead center, over the fence, over the road and into the rear end of that Chrysler.

“That was a great pitch that Curtis hit,” said Terry Beck, Vernon’s manager. “It was low and outside. What are you going to do? He’s been doing stuff like that all year long.”

Vernon had a couple opportunities to respond. Freyermuth walked back-to-back batters with one out in the third. And wild pitches put them on second and third. But the Cardinals’ ace struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

Vernon’s Tommy Pollard led off the fourth with a single (Beck and Vincen Rinella had the other two hits for Vernon). And Pollard’s pinch runner, Rinella, made it to third. But Haynes got out of the inning unscathed.

And in the sixth, Vernon had two runners on, but Haynes caught the final two batters looking to end the game.

“We stranded six runners,” said Terry Beck. “If we hit the ball, you know ...

“But it’s back to work and we play again Wednesday. Hopefully we’ll meet these guys again.”

Vernon now drops to Wednesday’s  loser’s bracket round where it will host Cambridge Springs, which advanced with a 5-1 win over Titusville yesterday.   

Cochranton moves on to the Little League winner’s bracket final. On Thursday, the Cardinals will host McLane, a 15-6 victor over Conneaut Valley.

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