WEST PITTSTON — Ethan Elmes drove in the first run and got the last out Sunday night to give West Pittston just enough to get past visiting Wallenpaupack, 2-1, in a tight Section 5 Little League Baseball first-round tournament game that took two days to complete.
The teams played one scoreless inning Saturday night before the game was suspended because of lightning and rain.
An RBI single by Elmes was the highlight of a two-run bottom of the third and West Pittston held on after Wallenpaupack’s Mabret Levant sent the first pitch of the fourth inning well over the left-field fence – and in a hurry – on a line drive.
Elmes came in to get the last five batters in succession, striking out three, including the last batter, to complete a combined four-hitter with winning pitcher J.J. Hood.
“Ethan Elmes has been huge of late, closing out games,” West Pittston coach Mickey Melberger said. “He’s a different type pitcher. He relies more on his off-speed.
“Then, he can sneak a fastball by, but his bread-and-butter is a curveball.”
Pinch hitter Connor Wrobleski walked to start the bottom of the third.
Evan Melberger singled to left field and, when the ball got away from the outfielder, runners wound up on second and third.
Elmes singled to center field to open the scoring.
After Hood was intentionally walked, Jake Kelleher brought home what proved to be the winning run with a groundout.
Those were the only runs West Pittston managed off Levant and reliever Wyatt Peifer.
“That was a good pitcher,” coach Melberger said of Levant. “Good pitchers limit good offense.”
West Pittston had its own good pitching.
Hood held Wallenpaupack to one run for 4 1/3 innings, then Melberger removed him in time to keep him eligible for a possible Wednesday game. He cannot pitch for two days because of Little League rules on pitch limits.
Hood struck out seven, including the last batter of the first, second and third innings.
“I’ve coached him during the regular season the last three years,” Melberger said. “I’m very proud of him. This year, he’s been very consistent. He doesn’t give up very many walks. He pounds the outside of the strong zone.
“He did a really good job. I expect that performance out of him.”
West Pittston advances to meet Nanticoke, a 10-6 winner over West Scranton in Saturday’s opener, in Monday’s 5:30 winners’ bracket final. West Scranton plays Wallenpaupack in a 7:30 elimination game as the tournament continues at West Pittston.
Playing the bulk of Game One a day later than Nanticoke and West Scranton could put a strain on West Pittston’s pitching, but winning early in the tournament can help alleviate that by reducing games and possibly creating an off-day.
“Winning the first game is always important,” Melberger said.
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