Murrysville slugs way to District 31 title

By Keith Barnes
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, July 20, 2006
 

West Hempfield had staved off elimination from the District 31 playoffs three times to reach the championship series against Murrysville.

There was not a fourth time.

Murrysville exploded for seven runs in the top of the fifth and held off a furious West Hempfield comeback to take a 13-11 victory Wednesday that clinched a 2-0 sweep of the best-of-3 series.

"Nothing comes easy, and that was a wild game," Murrysville coach Larry Wayman said. "I think the key was there is a short porch in right field, and it was a heck of a ball game that could have gone either way."

The teams combined for five home runs, three by West Hempfield and two from Murrysville, but the ones for the Eagles came at the most opportune times. Mike Pelekanos hit a two-run shot in the seven-run fifth, and second baseman Jeremy Rehak launched a two-run shot in the seventh that provided some much-needed insurance and turned out to be the margin of victory.

"The wind usually blows like hell here, and that two-run homer in the seventh turned out to be very big for them," West Hempfield coach Bob Stokes said. "Those insurance runs were really big."

Despite blowing a four-run first inning lead, Post 53 stayed in the game even after Murrysville jumped out to an 11-4 advantage in the fifth. West Hempfield came back in the bottom half of the inning with five runs of its own, thanks to a leadoff homer from Mike Harvat and a two-run shot off Pelekanos by Kyle McCullough.

"There's no question that, when that all happened, the players performed to their ability and we played like champions," Stokes said. "Some of our kids have never been in situations like this, and you just hope they can handle the pressure ... it's just hard to see the season come to an end."

Both starting pitchers, Pelekanos and Steve Dubich, were touched up for four runs, three unearned, in the early going. West Hempfield caught its first break with four in the first, and Murrysville came back to tie it in the fifth.

Aside from the two-run differential in the fifth, there was another notable difference. While Stokes pulled Dubich in favor of John Veech-Dixon in an effort to shut down the Eagles, Murrysville stuck with Pelekanos despite the five-run rally that nearly tied the game again.

"He still had his stuff, and he was keeping the ball down," Wayman said. "I knew with the other guys -- nothing against them -- but with this short porch, we needed a pitcher who can keep the ball down, and that's why we stayed with him."

Murrysville will play in the Region 7 finals that begin Monday at Indiana. The Eagles will square off with Mars at 4:05 p.m., but now the team has to adjust to having five days off between starts after playing almost every day for more than a month.

"We're going to give the kids a day off and let them enjoy themselves a little bit and then come back," Wayman said. "I'm probably going to be calling around to try to get a game in, but it will be nice to get away from the game a little bit and recharge the batteries."

Keith Barnes can be reached at kbarnes@tribweb.com or 724-543-1303 x221.