CALLERY — Looking to close out its Eagle County League semifinal series against Saxonburg, Mars II needed a boost.
Both at the plate and on the mound, it received one.
Tim Geibel and C.J. Weigand combined to drive in four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to make a winning pitcher out of reliever Alex Ziegler, who blanked Saxonburg over the final three innings in a 6-4 win in Game 3 Wednesday at Callery Field.
The victory completed the sweep for Mars II, which is now facing Mars in the best-of-5 title series.
“We just stuck with it the whole game,” said Mars II player/manager Eric King. “We didn’t have a lot of great at-bats, but we battled. It’s what we’ve done all year.”
Mars II trailed 4-2 entering the sixth, but Evan Oswald and Nick Rossmiller managed consecutive one-out singles and Cullen Hinderliter drew a walk to load the bases against Saxonburg pitcher Sean O’Donnell.
“That walk to Hinderliter was big,” said Saxonburg manager Dan Cunningham. “He just lost it for four pitches. This was a weird game.”
Geibel followed with a two-run double to tie the game and Weigand’s single brought home the game’s final two runs.
Ziegler then shut the door on Saxonburg’s season, stranding a runner at first with Ryan Fennell’s fly ball for the last out in the seventh.
Saxonburg managed just one hit — James Connelly’s single to center field that led off the top of the sixth — but it took advantage of the erratic pitching of Josh Friel early in the game.
Friel walked the first four batters in the top of the first. The free pass to Fennell allowed Dustin Lalle to trot home with the game’s first run. Brian Tougher later scored on a fielding error.
Mars II tied the game with Gabe Stephenson’s two-run home run in the third frame, scoring Ziegler in front of him.
“That was his first home run of the season,” said King, “but I’ve played with Gabe for the last few years and he’s shown power in the past.”
Friel, who bounced back with two scoreless innings in the second and third, struggled again in the fourth. Three walks and two hit-batsmen led to two more runs. The silver lining was that he left the bases loaded when he induced Tougher to fly out to end the inning.
Friel struck out two and walked eight. He left the game trailing 4-2 after four innings despite not giving up a hit.
“I’ve watched Josh pitch all year,” said King. “He struggles at times with his control, but he always seems to get out of it. Even today, he was able to get out of that (fourth inning). He always gives 100 percent and I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Ziegler calmed things down in the fifth inning, retiring Saxonburg in order. He surrendered Connelly’s base hit and walked Dustin Uhlman at the start of the sixth, but escaped the frame unscathed.
“Alex is mainly a relief pitcher in college (California, Pa.), so I have a lot of confidence bringing him out of the bullpen,” said King.