WEST PITTSTON — Nanticoke came into the Section 5 Little League Major Baseball playoffs with a plan and so far it’s worked to perfection.
Part B fell into place Monday as Nanticoke used the long ball and pitching of Nick Matson to defeat West Pittston 7-2 in the winners bracket final at the West Pittston Little League field.
The final piece comes 6 p.m. Wednesday when District 16 champ Nanticoke plays for the championship and a berth in the state tournament. Its opponent will be the winner of Tuesday’s elimination bracket final at 6 p.m. between D31 champion West Pittston and D32 Wallenpaupack. Wallenpaupack eliminated D17 champ West Scranton 8-2 in seven innings in Monday’s nightcap.
“They’re very resilient,” West Pittston assistant Mick Melberger said. “We were pretty much underdogs in the tournament before this probably against Kingston, definitely against Back Mountain National. Not sure about (Sunday), but Wallenpaupack is a powerhouse from up there. I expect nothing but the best tomorrow.”
Unbeaten Nanticoke would have to lose twice to miss a trip across the state to Rostraver Township Little League to play for the Pennsylvania crown. The team’s plan, though, was to have its ace Derek Cease on the mound Wednesday and that will happen.
“The first game I thought we would outscore West Scranton and we did, and we were able to set up our pitching for the whole run,” Nanticoke manager Al Brown said. “Nicholas (Matson) did a tremendous job today. Two outs from a complete game. Now we’re set up for Wednesday night. We have our No. 1 guy going to the mound and that’s exactly what we wanted to happen.”
Nanticoke proved that in the first inning. Cease led off and blasted the first pitch he saw over the left-center fence. Matson followed a batter later with and even more impressive shot. Matson launched the ball over the left field fence and onto the street. The ball took a big hop, landed atop a metal porch awning across the street and rolled into the yard.
West Pittston battled back to knot the score 2-2 in the second. Jason Wiedl singled to start the inning, moved to second on Jude Janosky’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Nick Ross’ single to right. Richie Kashuba later walked and scored when Evan Melberger sliced a single to left.
Nanticoke, though, wasn’t done hitting buildings. Cease made it 4-0 in the second with his second homer to left-center, this one bouncing off the lower roof of the indoor practice facility.
West Pittston wasn’t going to let Cease crack another over the fence in the fourth. Instead, after singles by Caleb Butczynski and Hayden Reakes, Cease was intentionally walked to load the bases. The strategy backfired when Justin Spencer grounded a two-run single up the middle. Cease made it to third on the hit and scored on a wild pitch for Nanticoke’s seventh run.
Matson was strong on the mound, except for running into some trouble in the second. He allowed three hits the rest of the way before exiting with one out in the sixth after reaching his pitch limit.
“They’re a good hitting team,” Brown said. “We were here (Sunday) and watched them play Wallenpaupack. Paupack had their one guy and they hit the ball off him. We knew they were going to hit. We told Nicholas they were going to hit the ball, they were going to score a couple runs. But I had complete faith he would come back strong and keep his head. And he did. he was two outs from finishing up by himself.”
Cease closed things out, getting in some needed work before Wednesday since he hadn’t pitched since July 11.
Back Mtn. American 3,
Green Ridge 0
Zach Paczewski pitched five scoreless innings while striking out five in the win.
Sam Barrouk threw a scoreless sixth inning with two strikeouts and Joey Peters had double and two RBI for Back Mountain American.
Roman Valvano had two hits for Green Ridge.
Pittston Area 17,
Old Forge 2
Gianna Adams struck out 10 as Pittston Area advanced to the winners bracket final.
Pittston Area will play Back Mountain at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Old Forge Little League field.
Back Mountain 17,
Victoria Spacino threw a no-hitter with 12 strikeouts as Back Mountain advanced to play Pittston Area in the winners bracket finals.
Spacino was 2 for 4 at the plate with a homer. Brenna Hunt was 3 for 4 with two triples. Ava Hudak was 2 for 4, while Allison Vitanovec, Sydney Bolesta and Madison Kerdesky all had hits.
Nanticoke 7, West Pittston 2
DP: Nanticoke 1. LOB: West Pittston 6, Nanticoke 4. HR: Cease 2, Matson. SAC: Janosky, HRosen.
Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar