Friends before foes
SLIPPERY ROCK — The final score didn't seem to matter.
Monday night's Butler County Area Baseball League All-Star Game at Slippery Rock University's Critchfield Park was more like a gathering of friends before becoming foes.
The team of Freeport, Pine-Richland, East Butler and Karns City defeated Cranberry Township, Butler Township and West Sunbury, 9-5, in a nine-inning contest.
No pitcher tossed more than one inning for either side and teams withheld their ace hurlers as the league playoffs begin Tuesday.
“Freeport might have pitched a couple of their better guys because they don't play until Thursday,” Cranberry Township manager and BCABL president Larry Stelitano said. “Besides that, this was a chance for kids to have fun, to play some positions they've never played before.
“This game is all about camaraderie before the playoffs begin.”
A-C Valley graduate and Karns City player Brock Weigle had a walk and single in his two plate appearances, then closed the game with authority on the mound. He struck out the side in the top of the ninth.
The game was scoreless into the top of the fourth when play was halted by a 45-minute rain delay.
When play resumed, the offense showed up as well.
The Freeport-PR-East Butler-KC contingent struck for three runs in the bottom of the fourth. PR's Connor Kirby tripled to right and scored on an error. East Butler's Michael Bortmas delivered a sacrifice fly on his birthday and teammate Clayton Holt had a run-scoring single to left.Butler Township's John Piroch had a RBI double to highlight a three-run fifth for the visitors that knotted the game. But Freeport-PR-East Butler-KC put the game away with a four-run fifth. Pine Richland's Tom Connell had a two-run double to highlight the inning.“I'd rather this game be played a little earlier or later in the season,” West Sunbury manager Matt Williams said. “But it's still a good event to have.“This (Critchfield Park) is a beautiful facility. Most of these kids will never play on a field this nice ever again.”West Sunbury's Mason Mershimer had a sacrifice fly and Butler Township's Jerome Oliver walked and scored on a wild pitch as CT-BT-West Sunbury crept within 7-5 in the seventh. The winners held serve in the bottom of the inning, parlaying three walks, an error and wild pitches into two runs of their own.Cranberry Township's Matt Stanick walked a pair and allowed a single to load the bases in the bottom of the first, but struck out the final two hitters to escape damage.Pine-Richland's Chuck Spontak struck out the side in the second inning.“A lot of these kids will be going to college together, some of them here,” Stelitano said. “They will talk about this game and playing on this field.“This is all about community.”Williams agreed.“These guys are making new friends tonight,” the West Sunbury coach said.Prior to the game, Cranberry Township's Kyle Stelitano and Zach Snyder, along with Butler Township's Logan Donnel, were awarded $1,000 scholarships from the BCABL for their winning essays on what community baseball means to them.