By Frank Foreman
July 23, 2013 7:00 a.m. ALBION —
When it rains it pours, and so was the case Monday for French Creek Valley, as the Creekers started the scoring early and never let up, defeating Warren Post 135 in the Pennsylvania American Legion Region 8 Tournament, 11-1, in five innings.
Fighting a steady rain throughout the game, French Creek Valley positioned itself well for the rest of the tournament, as an eight-run first inning allowed the Creekers to turn to their bullpen early, saving starting pitcher Luke Carter’s arm for a possible start today.
FCV takes on Fox Township today, with the start time to be determined. Monday’s game between Fox Township and Wilcox was rained out, pushing it to today at 1 p.m. If Fox Township wins it, FCV will play at 7:30 p.m. A Wilcox victory over Fox Township will have FCV playing at 4 p.m.
French Creek Valley jumped all over Warren starting pitcher Ryan Gustofson, bringing 14 batters to the plate in an eight-run first inning.
Walks were an issue for Gustofson early, and the Creekers made him pay dearly as back-to-back doubles by Carter and Ryan Paden with one out both plated runners, setting up a huge frame for FCV.
Following a walk to Brandon Sherman, Drew Durasa smacked a two-RBI single to keep the big inning alive. A sacrifice fly by Scott Sada in his second at-bat of the inning scored FCV’s final run of the first, a frame that included four walks and two Warren errors.
The four walks were costly as they continually forced home runs and knocked Gustofson out of the game.
“We scored early and it was exciting. We came out firing and did what we had to do,” French Creek Valley manager Brandon Crum said. “We knew the weather was going to be an issue, and fortunately we got out to a good start.”
That good start carried over to the third inning as FCV added to its 8-0 lead with a three-run frame.
Jacob Digiacomo started things off with a leadoff double. Cole Baker followed with a walk. And two batters later, Sada also walked.
Carter worked a walk to push home a run in the next at-bat, keeping the bases juiced for Sherman, who didn’t disappoint.
Sherman laced a single to score a pair of runners, and FCV quickly had 11 runs on the board, a score that was insurmountable for Warren.
Warren plated its lone run of the game in the top of the third when Austin Schwankle smashed a leadoff triple and scored on an error.
Carter started the game and cruised through the first two innings before Durasa came on in relief and looked sharp the rest of the way.
Carter didn’t allow a hit during his two innings of work, while Durasa gave up just one run on three hits over three innings.
“With the weather, we were concerned with the pitching. We had to be efficient,” Crum said. “We got Luke out of the game to save innings, and now we have a real nice bullpen set up going forward. We have arms that I’m confident in, and our pitching is fresh.”
A big reason for FCV’s fresh bullpen is Durasa, who came on and took care of business.
With the tournament winding down, pitching depth proves more and more important with each passing game, and thanks to Durasa’s work on the hill Monday, that depth is as strong as ever.
“Durasa doesn’t have a lot of innings, but the kid wants the ball all the time,” Crum said. “He got a chance to go out there and he threw strikes. He continued to get outs and pitched to contact, which is what he needed to do. He bought up some innings for us.”
FCV may be rooting for a Wilcox victory in the early game today, as Fox Township would have to make a quick turnaround and play FCV immediately following a possible nine-inning game.
Regardless, Crum has his crew focused on simply winning the game at hand, a game that would give FCV a shot in the championship.
“This game today means a lot,” Crum said. “I told the team that no matter if you’re in the winner’s bracket or loser’s bracket, you want to win. Nothing changes. You think about that ‘can’t lose’ mentality, but you always just play to win.”