Pittston Area baseball coach Paul Zaffuto turned to two of his youngest players in a tense spot Monday.
Sophomore pitcher Hunter Ralston came through, with a little assistance from freshman third baseman Joe Cencetti.
As a result, the Patriots held off host Crestwood for a 5-3 Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 win, which was the team’s second straight to begin the season.
The Patriots finished the week tied for second with Crestwood at 2-1 following a 4-0 loss to defending division champion and current leader Wyoming Valley West on Wednesday.
Pittston Area led throughout Monday’s game, but Crestwood threatened in the bottom of the sixth.
Winning pitcher Chris Merithew had allowed just four hits and one earned run before Crestwood used three straight singles to load the bases with none out to start the sixth inning.
Zaffuto turned to Ralston, who has very limited in varsity pitching experience, to protect a 4-2 lead in the first appearance of his sophomore season.
“Ralston was big,” Zaffuto said. “Bases loaded, nobody out, first appearance. He comes in and goes strikeout, strikeout.”
Then, Cencetti made his contribution.
Inserted before the inning as a defensive replacement, Cencetti turned a harmless foul ball into an out to end the threat.
Cencetti charged a little foul looper, dove straight forward and caught the ball inches off the ground.
“It was incredible,” Zaffuto said.
Merithew got the win and Ralston the save.
The Patriots took the lead on the game’s third batter.
Joe DeLucca was hit by a pitch to start the game. He stole second and scored on a one-out single by Kyle O’Fier.
More aggression on the bases built the lead to 3-0 in the second.
Tyler Jackson singled and Kevin Krawczyk doubled with two out.
When Steve Shamnoski followed with an infield single that scored Jackson, Zaffuto also waved Krawczyk around and he beat the throw home.
“We took a shot at scoring two and we got two,” Zaffuto said.
Pittston Area battled Wyoming Valley West in Wednesday’s road game.
Tyler Jackson made it 12 straight scoreless innings to begin the season.
Wyoming Valley West then did all its scoring in the bottom of the sixth to post the win and take the early lead in the division.
Jackson struck out seven and walked one.
Nate Baranski threw a three-hitter with eight strikeouts for the Spartans.
Jackson, C.J. Pisack and Zuba had the Pittston Area hits.
Wyoming Area’s pursuit of a third straight WVC Division 2 title got off to a rough start.
The Warriors lost their first two games before pulling out a one-run victory Thursday.
Dallas pounded host Wyoming Area, 14-2, in six innings Tuesday.
Brandon Charney had two hits in the loss.
Tunkhannock defeated the Warriors, 4-1, Wednesday.
Mikey Bonita had two hits against the Tigers.
Bonita drew a bases-loaded, two-out walk in the bottom of the seventh Thursday for a 1-0 win over Nanticoke.
Cole Keating got the win.
Pittston Area had a big week, winning the Icebreaker Relays April 8, then winning a pair of Wyoming Valley Conference meets to take sole possession of first place in Division 1 at 3-0.
Abby Norwillo won the long jump, triple jump and pole vault Thursday during an 81-69 victory over Hazleton Area to break a tie for the division lead.
Dallas, which has only had one meet, is the only other unbeaten remaining in the division.
Arianna Boccardi won the 1600- and 3200-meter runs against Hazleton Area while Nicole Zambetti won the 800 and was part of the 3200 relay win.
The Lady Patriots routed Coughlin, 113-37, Tuesday when Zambetti won the 400 and 800 in addition to being on the winning 3200 relay team.
Olivia Norwillo won the 200 and was on the winning 400 and 1600 relay teams. Boccardi won the 1600 and 3200.
Pittston Area won its fifth straight girls title in the relay event at Wallenpaupack, which combines field athletes in events, combines times of hurdles in another and also features other relays that are not run in regular-season meets.
Sisters Taryn and Ashton Ashby combined to win the javelin.
Abby Norwillo and Anjelica Singer won the long jump.
Mary Silinskie, Charity McLeod, Jenna Smith and Boccardi teamed for the middle distance relay win. Andrea Ruby, Janelle Wilk, Isa Wesolowski and Sydney Copp combined for a 300 hurdles win.
Vanessa Shedlock won four events for Wyoming Area Tuesday, but it was not enough in an 83½-66½ loss at Dallas.
Shedlock won the 200, 400, long jump and triple jump. Shelby Stackhouse won the high jump and pole vault.
Wyoming Area picked up wins Wednesday and Friday and leads the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2 race with a 3-1 record.
The Warriors opened the week with their first loss, 15-8, to visiting Scranton Prep Tuesday.
The game was tied, 5-5, at halftime.
Jake Urban led the team with four goals and one assist in the loss. Dom DeLuca scored two goals and had three groundballs. Sam Greenfield had a goal and three assists.
Wyoming Area then defeated North Pocono, 16-6, Wednesday and Coughlin, 16-3, Friday in home games.
Greenfield had five goals and two assists to lead the win over North Pocono. Alex Hawk added three goals and three assists.
Curtis Hager made 19 saves.
DeLuca, who had four groundballs, joined Pat Musinski and Ethan Houser in producing two goals each. Urban added a goal and three assists.
Urban had four goals and three assists in the rout over Coughlin, a first-year WVC member.
Sam Greenfield, who had two assists, and Alex Gonzalez added three goals each. Alex Hawk had two goals and an assist.
Caity Butchko and Lila Donnelly scored four goals each Monday when Wyoming Area defeated host Tunkhannock, 15-10, in a Wyoming Valley Conference game.
The Lady Warriors (2-1) fell to Delaware Valley, 12-2, Thursday.
Donnelly and Sydney Maguire scored the goals. Lindsey Poziac assisted on both.
Nina Cirelli did more than half the team’s scoring during the week as Pittston Area lost three times in four days: 9-8 to Scranton Prep, 20-3 to Wyoming Seminary and 7-4 to Tunkhannock.
Nick Harth and Matt Costello posted a 6-2, 6-2 win at first doubles Monday to help Pittston Area to a 4-1 WVC victory over visiting Hazleton Area.
Mike Mazurkivich, who won 7-5 in the second set at the third spot, and Nick Alfano, who won a second-set tiebreaker as part of a come-from-behind, three-set win in the second position, won singles matches for the Patriots.
Hazleton Area forfeited the second doubles match.
Crestwood edged Pittston Area, 3-2, Thursday.
Wyoming Area picked up its first win Thursday, 3-2, over Wyoming Valley West.
Alex Chronowski-Jason Mapes and Austin Alder-Mike Abromovage won the doubles matches. Chronowski-Mapes had to recover from a 6-0 loss in the first set and Justin Alder also needed three sets to get his win at first singles.
The Warriors fell, 3-2, to Dallas Wednesday.
Joe Skrip and Aaron Lewis won at second and third singles in straight sets for the Warriors.
Kyle Carr and P.J. Angeli led Wyoming Area’s dominance in the field events, but Jack Zardecki helped Dallas counter on the track.
Zardecki won the three longest races and anchored the longest relay Tuesday to lift the host Mountaineers to a 73 ½-72 ½ WVC Division 1 win.
Carr won the shot put and discus while finishing second to Tristan Sokach-Minnick as the Warriors outscored the Mountaineers, 26-1, in the throws.
Angeli won the long jump and triple jump, helping Wyoming Area to an overall field events advantage of 47-12.
The Warriors got most of their track points in the sprints.
Kane Burton won the 200-meter dash and was part of the winning 400 relay team. Enzo Scotto-Diluzio was second in the 100 and on the winning relay that also included Brian Williams and Quay Williamson.
Two of the WVC’s top sprinters played large roles in handing Pittston Area a pair of Division 1 losses in three days.
Vincent Todd won the 100 and 200 and was on two winning relays when Coughlin defeated Pittston Area, 87-63, Tuesday.
Michael Cusatis won the 100, 200, 400 and was on the winning 1600 relay when division-leader Hazleton Area topped the visiting Patriots, 88-62, Thursday.
Paul Moska won the high jump and triple jump against Coughlin and won the high jump against Hazleton Area when the Patriots (1-2) did not have a single athlete win two events.
Pittston Area had won the Icebreaker Relays at Wallenpaupack April 8.
Moska and Jimmy Pliska combined to win the high jump. Walter Coles and Jake Rutkowski won the javelin. The 300 hurdles team of Nick Barbieri, Shane Syms, Naseem Guillaume and Aaron Ladd also won.
Pittston Area fell to 0-3 in the WVC with a pair of home losses.
Jenna Lipowski went 3-for-3 with four RBI and Miranda Bohn threw a four-hit shutout when Nanticoke handled the Lady Patriots, 11-0, in five innings in Monday’s Division 1-2 crossover.
Crestwood edged Pittston Area, 3-2, in a Division 1 game Wednesday.
Nanticoke took charge with five runs in the top of the first.
Gabby Para led Pittston Area, going 2-for-3.
Nina Cencetti went the distance against Crestwood, striking out six without walking a batter.
Alexa McHugh tripled in Pittston Area’s first run and scored the other on a Madisyn Antal double in the two-run sixth.
Lexi Felinski had two hits in the loss.
Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at [email protected]