By Tom Robinson
For Sunday Dispatch
HUGHESTOWN — Greater Pittston used its biggest comeback of the season Tuesday night to secure a spot in the Wyoming Valley Senior American Legion baseball playoffs with a 10-7 victory over Valley.
Just which spot Greater Pittston earned remained uncertain into Saturday morning when the scheduled final game of the regular season was postponed both Thursday and Friday.
By then, however, Greater Pittston had given itself a margin for error. It assured itself of no worse than a playoff to get into the playoffs by wiping out the 5-0 lead Valley built in the first 2 ½ innings.
“No one got down on our teammates,” shortstop Nick Gushka said. “We picked each other up.”
Gushka played a big role in that. He went 3-for-3 form the eighth spot in the order, with a double, sacrifice fly and three RBI.
Greater Pittston scored in the third, fourth and sixth innings with Gushka driving in a run in each.
Seven of the first eight batters reached in the bottom of the third. Zach Lopatka got it started with a triple off the center-field fence and Greater Pittston batted around on the way to tying the game with five runs.
Steve Homza followed with an RBI single, which was matched later in the inning by Evan Musto and Gushka. Tyler Jackson drew a bases-loaded walk and Tyler Dougherty drove in the tying run on a sacrifice fly.
Valley briefly regained the lead with a run in the top of the fourth, but Greater Pittston answered with four more to go ahead to stay.
Musto and Gushka each drove in runs with sacrifice flies. After Gushka’s, Dougherty, the last batter in the order, doubled in two runs.
“The bottom of the order carried the team,” Greater Pittston manager Jerry Ranieli said.
Greater Pittston got a lift from another unlikely spot.
Brandon Charney pitched for just the second time in the Legion season and earned the win in relief. He slowed Valley down, giving up just two runs on three hits while walking two and striking out four in 4 2/3 innings.
“Brandon Charney won this game for us,” Ranieli said. “He stepped up when we were low on arms.
“ … I’ve been telling him we’d use him all year, but in the first couple weeks, we had one game here and there. We had five games in five days. Everybody had to be ready.”
Dougherty equaled Gushka’s three RBI and Musto had two. Jackson went 2-for-2 with two walks and scored twice.
Greater Pittston Senior 3
Swoyersville defeated visiting Greater Pittston, 4-3, Monday.
Joe Gavenonis went 2-for-3 with a double in the loss. Tyler Dougherty also had two hits.
Greater Pittston Senior 6, Plains 1
Greater Pittston won the second of its two games July 5, hitting the road for a 6-1 victory over Plains behind a three-hitter by Zach Lopatka.
Lopatka struck out seven.
Tyler Mitchell went 2-for-2 with two walks and drove in the game’s first run.
Steve Homza, who scored a run, and Tyler Jackson also had two hits each.
Chase Nowak, Kyle O’Fier and Tim Cavanaugh had the hits for Plains.
Greater Pittston Senior 2
Greater Pittston put together three hits in the fourth inning but could not manage any the rest of the way while losing, 7-2, to visiting Nanticoke in the first of two July 5 games.
Tyler Mitchell, Evan Musto and Tyler Jackson had the hits in the loss.
Plains Senior 5
Plains had its playoff hopes end Monday with a 14-5 loss at Valley.
Plains Senior 1
Plains closed out the season on a five-game losing streak, finishing sixth in the nine-team league at 7-11 after falling at Swoyersville, 5-1, Tuesday.
Greater Pittston bounced back from its first loss to defeat visiting Back Mountain, 10-7, Monday, starting a stretch of wins in three straight days and four out of five.
Dylan Melberger got out of a bases-loaded jam with two strikeouts for the save. Matt Wright allowed just four hits and struck out four to get the win.
Steve Yordy’s three-run double led the offense. C.J. Rome followed Yordy with another double for an RBI.
Greater Pittston added a 4-3 win over visiting Tunkhannock Tuesday and a 10-6 victory at Back Mountain Wednesday.
Rome, Hunter Ralston and winning pitcher Melberger combined for 13 strikeouts in the win over Tunkhannock.
Alex McAndrew had a pair of triples to lead the offense.
McAndrew pitched six innings to get the win against Back Mountain with relief help from Matt Wright.
C.J. Pisack had a double, triple and three runs scored. Mikey Bonita also had two hits.
Dylan Spurlin, Alex Gonzalez and Rome had hits and RBI.
The last win of the week was the most comfortable with Greater Pittston pounding out 14 hits in a 12-2, six-inning win over Valley.
Bonita, Pisack, Gonzalez and Anthony Nardell had two hits each.
Dylan Melberger threw four scoreless innings.
Plains defeated Valley, 14-5, Monday.
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