Nanticoke defeats West Pittston for Section 5 crown, berth in state playoffs


By John Erzar - [email protected]



Nanticoke players celebrate their victory over West Pittston for the Section 5 Little League Major Baseball championship Thursday.


Nanticoke’s Justin Spencer delivers a pitch against West Pittston. Spencer picked up the victory, sending Nanticoke to the state tournament.


Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Nanticoke manager Al Brown talks to his team after Thursday’s victory.


Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Nanticoke’s Owen Brown slides back into second base.


Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Nanticoke players celebrate their victory over West Pittston for the Section 5 Little League Major Baseball championship Thursday.


Aimee Dilger | Times Leader


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    WEST PITTSTON — Derek Cease didn’t get the job done with his arm a day earlier, so he let his bat make up for it on Thursday.

    Cease clobbered two home runs and drove in four as Nanticoke advanced to the Little League Major Baseball state tournament with an 8-6 victory over West Pittston in the Section 5 championship game.

    The Nanticoke all-stars won’t have much time to celebrate their victory. They need to be at to Rostraver Little League, which is about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh, by Saturday afternoon. Nanticoke opens state play at 10 a.m. Sunday against Section 8 champion Morrisville.

    District 16 champion Nanticoke set up the sectional tournament to have Cease, the team’s ace and one of the top youth pitchers in the area, to pitch Wednesday. Cease, though, struggled through 3 2/3 innings as West Pittston forced Thursday’s game by winning 9-6.

    “I knew I had to drive my team and get some hits,” Cease said.

    Even more so after West Pittston took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first on a three-run homer by Jason Wiedl that also scored Evan Melberger and Ethan Elmes. Melberger reached on an error and Elmes singled before Wiedl’s two-out shot.

    Cease started the comeback with a homer to lead off the bottom of the first. Justin Spencer then reached on an error and Nick Matson tucked a single just inside the right-field foul line. Spencer scored on Collin Piestrak’s groundout and Matson did the same when Ethan Egenski grounded out.

    Cease then snapped the tie and gave Nanticoke the lead for good in the second. Charlie Casey opened the inning with a single to left and pinch hitter Bryant Keegan bunted his way aboard. Cease then launched his second homer to the same general area as the first — left-center field — for a 6-3 advantage.

    “They wouldn’t pitch to him (Wednesday),” Nanticoke manager Al Brown said of Cease. “I told him before the game if they’re not going to pitch to you we’re just going to play baseball. Let them do what they’re going to do and we’ll deal with it. You’re teammates will pick you up.”

    One of them was Spencer, the starting pitcher pressed into action after Wednesday’s loss.

    “I wasn’t nervous. I was really happy to get the start,” Spencer said. “My teammates backed me up with their hitting. My curve and change-up were working. So was my fastball.”

    Spencer’s instructions were simple. He didn’t have to go in there and mow down batter after batter, although there wouldn’t have been any complaints if he did so. He just had to keep the damage to a minimum.

    “We knew, just like going into West Scranton, he was going to give up some home runs, give up some runs,” Brown said. “We asked him to limit it, to keep it to four, five or six because we knew we would score enough if we kept it at six max we’d score enough to win the game.”

    Spencer surrendered consecutive homers to J.J. Hood and Jake Kelleher in the third, moving West Pittston within 6-5. But he retired nine of the next 12 batters before leaving with one out in the sixth after reaching his pitch limit. By that time, Nanticoke had increased its lead to 8-5 as Nick Matson hit a two-run homer into a tree in left-center in the fourth. Matson’s homer scored Cease, who West Pittston intentionally walked a batter earlier.

    Reliever Devyn Sura took over with one out in the sixth and after surrendering a homer to Jude Janosky fanned the last two West Pittston batters.

    District 31 champion West Pittston saw its season end after winning its first district championship since 1996. It defeated two unbeaten teams to win the D31 crown and also handed Nanticoke its only loss in postseason play.

    “I use the word resilient when I talk about them all the time, but that’s the best word to describe them,” said West Pittston coach Mick Melberger, who ran the team in the absence of manager Jim Manganiello. “I told the boys laterally two seconds ago, ‘You beat every good team in this area. You beat Kingston/Forty Fort. You beat Back Mountain. We beat Wallenpaupack twice. We beat the Section 5 champs. Hold your heads high.’”

    Nanticoke 8, West Pittston 6

    West Pittston`AB`R`H`BI

    Melberger 2b`3`1`0`0

    Elmes ss`3`1`1`0

    Hood 1b`3`1`1`1

    Kelleher p`3`1`1`1

    Wiedl c`3`1`2`3

    Sokch-Mnnick cf`3`0`1`0

    Ross 3b`3`0`0`0

    Kashuba lf`1`0`0`0

    HRosen ph`1`0`0`0

    Janosky ph`1`1`1`1

    MRosen rf`1`0`0`0

    Pitcavage ph`1`0`0`0

    Wrobleski ph`1`0`0`0

    Totals`27`6`7`6

    Nanticoke`AB`R`H`BI

    Cease ss`3`3`2`4

    Spencer p`3`1`0`0

    Matson cf`3`2`2`2

    Piestrak 1b`3`0`0`0

    Egenski rf`3`0`1`1

    Sura rf`3`0`1`1

    Reakes ph`1`0`0`0

    Brown lf`3`0`0`0

    Casey c`1`1`1`0

    Butczynski ph`1`0`0`0

    Everett ph`1`0`0`0

    Mackiewicz 3b`1`0`0`0

    Keegan ph`1`1`1`0

    Totals`25`8`7`8

    West Pittston`302`001`—`6

    Nanticoke`330`200`x`—`8

    E: West Pittston 3, Nanticoke 4. LOB: West Pittston 4, Nanticoke 3. HR: Hood, Kelleher, Wiedl, Janosky, Cease 2, Matson.

    W.Pittston`IP`H`R`ER`BB`SO

    Kelleher (L)`2.0`5`6`5`1`1

    MRosen`3.0`2`2`2`1`2

    Nanticoke`IP`H`R`ER`BB`SO

    Spencer (W)`5.1`6`5`2`1`4

    Sura`0.2`1`1`1`0`2

    Nanticoke players celebrate their victory over West Pittston for the Section 5 Little League Major Baseball championship Thursday.
    http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_TTL072116Little-League.jpgNanticoke players celebrate their victory over West Pittston for the Section 5 Little League Major Baseball championship Thursday.

    Nanticoke’s Justin Spencer delivers a pitch against West Pittston. Spencer picked up the victory, sending Nanticoke to the state tournament.
    http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_TTL072116Little-League3.jpgNanticoke’s Justin Spencer delivers a pitch against West Pittston. Spencer picked up the victory, sending Nanticoke to the state tournament. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

    Nanticoke manager Al Brown talks to his team after Thursday’s victory.
    http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_TTL072116Little-League4.jpgNanticoke manager Al Brown talks to his team after Thursday’s victory. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

    Nanticoke’s Owen Brown slides back into second base.
    http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_TTL072116Little-League5.jpgNanticoke’s Owen Brown slides back into second base. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

    Nanticoke players celebrate their victory over West Pittston for the Section 5 Little League Major Baseball championship Thursday.
    http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_TTL072116Little-League2.jpgNanticoke players celebrate their victory over West Pittston for the Section 5 Little League Major Baseball championship Thursday. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

    By John Erzar

    [email protected]

    Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar

    Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar

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