By Jim Hunter
When the Vantage softball team is mentioned around the Thompson Athletic Complex, two players come to mind immediately — Jeff “Hack” Hall and Billy Noel.
You might want to include Corey Augustine as one of Vantage’s prominent players.
Smacking a three-run home run in the fifth inning and a game-winning, two-run double in the sixth, Augustine powered Vantage to the Meadville Slow-pitch Softball League Championship on Wednesday night with a 19-17 win over Smash-It.
Smash-It — a youth-ladened squad led by powerful John Macken — advanced to the championship finals with a thrilling 17-15 win over Greenhill Farms in the loser’s bracket final.
Going against the multi-championship Vantage unit, Smash-It showed no fear at the beginning by scoring five runs in the first inning — three via Macken’s towering home run.
Vantage didn’t flinch an eye.
Leading off the second inning with five consecutive hits and getting a three-run dinger from Ryan Artman later in the inning, Vantage answered with an eight-spot to take a 10-5 lead.
Another Vantage blowout win in the works? Smash-It didn’t get the memo.
Ignited by two-run home runs from Brian Williams and Derek Peterman, Smash-It erupted for seven runs in the fourth to take a 13-10 lead.
Peterman struck again the sixth with another two-run shot to increase Smash-It’s lead to 16-12.
Augustine had seen enough.
After Artman and T.J. Pennino led off the fifth with consecutive singles, Augustine — a sweet-swinging, left-handed stick from Greenville — drilled a three-run home run and Kyle Willis followed with a solo shot to tie Smash-It at 16-16.
Dan Philson, Smash-It’s No. 10 stick, snapped the deadlock with a two-out solo blast in the top of the sixth.
Time for that fella again, Augustine.
With Noel and Pennino standing on base and two outs, Augustine rocketed a laser off the right-field fence for a two-run double — giving Vantage an 18-17 lead. Chad Beige added an insurance run with a run-scoring single.
In the bottom of the seventh, Vantage’s defense clinched the championship in style with a web-gem 6-4-3 (Matt Schmitt, Beige and Augustine) double-play.
In the post-game interview, Hall reflected on Vantage’s two main components: firepower and defense.
“We do not panic when we get down and it showed (tonight) ... getting behind 5-0 in the first inning,” said Hall. “We have the firepower to come back — one through 11 batters.
“And, once again, our defense was superb. Matty and Chad turned one heck of a double-play.”
Game notes: Vantage was 26-for-42. ... Lead-off batter Schmitt was the ultimate table-setter by going 4-for-4. Hall and Moe Dillemuth were 3-for-3 and Augustine and Artman were 3-for-4. ... Smash-It clean-up batter Brent Gable was 5-for-5 with four runs scored and Macken and Peterman were 4-for-5. ... Pennino, Vantage’s left fielder, made the defensive play of the game with a fully-extended catch in the sixth inning.