Nanticoke Legion punches ticket to Wyoming Valley Senior Legion finals


    By Derek Levarse

    [email protected]

    Nanticoke catcher Mike Sulcoski (top) tags out Swoyersville’s Mark Popson at the plate after an on-the-money throw from left fielder Mike Blazaskie during Monday’s Legion playoffs.

    Nanticoke second baseman Tyler Myers (right) holds up the ball after putting the tag on Swoyersville’s Justin Montalvo to thwart a stolen base attempt during Monday’s Legion playoffs.

    Swoyersville’s Chris Lupole comes up with a tough stab at short during Monday’s Legion playoff game against Nanticoke.

    RICE TWP. — The defending state champs continue to bring out the best in Nanticoke.

    Three showdowns against Swoyersville, three victories. The latest was an 8-1 decision on Monday in the second round of the Wyoming Valley Senior Legion playoffs at Mountain Post.

    John Wickiser went the distance on the mound and John Morgan busted the game open in the fifth, clearing the deck with a bases-loaded double.

    Swoyersville remains alive in the double-elimination bracket and will take on Greater Pittston at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader at Mountain Post. The winner will face Nanticoke in the finals at 5:30 p.m.

    Greater Pittston eliminated Tunkhannock 6-0 in Monday’s opener to earn the rematch with Swoyersville, which held on for a tense 5-4 win in Sunday’s first round.

    Nanticoke will have two chances to win the tournament. A loss Tuesday would set up a decisive game for the crown on Wednesday.

    And the squad has plenty of confidence after getting that third win against Swoyersville by a combined score of 13-1.

    A year ago, it was Swoyersville that ultimately had the upper hand in the series, beating Nanticoke in the Region 5 finals en route to a milestone state title for the league.

    “It’s a big-time rivalry here,” Nanticoke manager Joe Yudichak said. “There’s respect on both sides and some good baseball. Some good teams. This year, so far, we’ve been on top.

    “We didn’t forget last year. We came back this year, got some key guys back. Good pitching, good defense and timely hitting — you’ll win a lot.”

    Nanticoke got all three on Monday.

    Wickiser has been steady on the mound all season long against Swoyersville, pitching out of jams and striking out four.

    “He competes. He’s a heck of a pitcher out there,” Swoyersville manager Sean Toole said. “I have all the respect in the world for that kid. We put some good at-bats together against him today, but he got the better of us.”

    The defense behind him was highlighted by left fielder Mike Blazaskie, who gunned down a runner trying to tag up from third, delivering a pinpoint throw to Mike Sulcoski at the plate to end a threat in the top of the second.

    And the most timely hit came off the bat of Morgan, the nine-hitter, who faced a full count with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth.

    Morgan slashed the payoff pitch past a diving third baseman into the corner in left to bring home all three runs and put the game away at 7-1.

    “I just saw a fastball and took what I could get,” Morgan said. “Hit it and just run. That was all that was in my head.”

    “He’s a clutch hitter,” Yudichak said. “I have all the faith in Johnny.”

    Christian Pack (two RBI), Sulcoski (double) and Blazaskie (double) all had two hits apiece in the win.

    Swoyersville scored its first run of the season against Nanticoke in the third on an RBI double by Justin Montalvo.

    It didn’t open the floodgates for the offense. But Toole is expecting a bounce-back day for his roster, the bulk of which won that Legion state title and also reached the PIAA finals this past June during the varsity season.

    “This is a tough group of guys,” Toole said. “We just didn’t have our best game today.”

    GP stays alive

    Jeremy Zezza scattered six singles in the shutout of Tunkhannock to keep it going for Greater Pittston.

    Zezza struck out six and, after giving up a leadoff single in the fourth, quickly got a double play and ended up retiring the final 11 batters of the game.

    “He was just changing speeds and mixing locations,” Greater Pittston manager Jerry Ranieli said. “He didn’t have his best stuff because he threw yesterday a little bit, but he was hitting spots, he was changing speeds.

    “He may not have been 84-85 today, but he had better location.”

    The bottom of the order did some damage for Ranieli’s team as Nick Gushka (double, RBI) and Tyler Dougherty (two RBI) both went 3 for 3.

    Bobby Gilpin had two hits to top Tunkhannock.

    Nanticoke 8, Swoyersville 1


    Montalvo cf`3`0`1`1

    Lupole ss`4`0`0`0

    Hogan c`2`0`0`0

    Yankosky 1b`3`0`0`0

    Worlinsky p-2b`3`0`2`0

    Zavada 3b`2`0`1`0

    Baron lf`3`0`1`0

    Gregory 2b-rf`2`1`1`0

    Flanley rf`1`0`0`0

    Powell p`0`0`0`0

    Popson ph`1`0`1`0



    Myers 2b`3`0`1`0

    Pack ss`4`0`2`2

    Sulcoski c`4`1`2`0

    Bugonowicz 1b`3`1`0`0

    Marcnkwski pr`0`1`0`0

    Blazaskie lf`2`2`2`0

    Kreitzer rf`0`0`0`0

    Pokrinchak dh`3`0`1`1

    Wickiser p`3`2`1`1

    Reno 3b`3`0`0`0

    Morgan cf`3`1`1`3




    2B — Montalvo, Sulcoski, Morgan, Blazaskie


    Worlinsky (L)`4.2`8`7`4`3`5



    Wickiser (W)`7.0`7`1`1`3`4

    Greater Pittston 6, Tunkhannock 0


    Ceccarelli c`3`0`0`0

    Gilpin cf`3`0`2`0

    SSoltysiak ss`3`0`1`0

    Tinna lf`0`0`0`0

    Hannon dh`3`0`1`0

    CBrown p`3`0`0`0

    Hughes 1b`2`0`1`0

    BBrown ph`1`0`0`0

    Goodwin 2b`2`0`1`0

    Hulslander ph`1`0`0`0

    Kosty 3b`1`0`0`0

    Gregory ph`1`0`0`0

    BSoltysiak rf`2`0`0`0


    Gr. Pittston`AB`R`H`BI

    Lopatka cf`3`1`1`1

    Homza lf`2`0`0`1

    Lescavage ss`4`0`2`0

    Cirelli rf`0`0`0`0

    Gavenonis dh`4`0`1`1

    Mitchell 1b`4`0`0`0

    Musto c`3`1`0`0

    Zezza p`2`2`1`0

    Gushka 3b`3`1`3`1

    Dougherty 2b`3`1`3`2



    Gr. Pittston`120`120`x`—`6

    2B — Gushka


    CBrown (L)`5.0`10`6`5`2`2


    Gr. Pittston`IP`H`R`ER`BB`K

    Zezza (W)`7.0`6`0`0`0`6

    Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse

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