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 Arnold Wins Pitcher's Dual

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By Mike Allshouse
Monday, July 18, 2005

The answer was blowing in the wind at Lint Field in Irwin on Sunday, and that answer for Arnold was patience as it pulled out a 2-1 victory over West Hempfield in the opening game of the best-of-3 American Legion District 31 championship.


The wind was blowing, often times delaying the game as the infield dust swirled around home plate.

"This team is very resilient, and they are very patient throughout the game," Arnold coach Doug Aftanas said. "It seems like in the last three semifinal games against Irwin and today's game here, we've had innings where we had to make some plays offensively, and we did."

Arnold's Chuck Swanger walked to lead off the second, then went to second on Joe Veltri's single. Matt Matarrese hit a grounder to West Hempfield third baseman Steve Dubich, who scooped the ball and went to second base trying to turn two to end the inning. Veltri was called out at second, but the throw to first soared over the glove of Bryan Morrison, putting Matarrese on first and allowing Swanger to score the game's first run. In the bottom of the second inning, leadoff hitter Brandon Gnesda reached on a fielding error, then stole second. After Dubich walked, Gnesda was out attempting to steal third, but he twisted his ankle in a collision with Veltri. Gnesda's injury delayed the game since West Hempfield fields just nine players, so Gnesda returned to play with his ankle heavily wrapped.

Bryan Morrison then hit a single that shot the gap between third base and shortstop, Dubich left his perch on second, rounded third and tied the score. West Hempfield pitcher Matt Roach, a left-hander, stepped up after Gnesda's injury and took some of the pressure off the injured first baseman by striking out two in the top of the third as West Hempfield retired the side in order. Roach continued with his one-hitter through until the sixth inning.

West Hempfield had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. With two out and the bases loaded, Arnold left fielder Matarrese made a key catch to get Arnold out of the inning. "That was the key play of the game," Aftanas said. "(Matarrese) came up with that when they had the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning. You play up here with the wind and that ball swirls all around, you never know where that ball is going to go. He took a good break on the ball got a good angle on it, got to the line and made that catch and got us out of the inning. If that ball drops in, they score at least two runs, and then it is a different game."

Besides the fifth inning offensive outburst, the middle innings belonged to the pitchers. Arnold's Kevin Rayburn got four of his six strikeouts in the second to sixth inning stretch. Rayburn also retired West Hempfield's leadoff batter in the bottom of the seventh inning, setting the tone for the inning. Arnold's winning run came with two out in the seventh. Swanger singled, followed by a walk by Veltri. Mattarese then hit a shot down the third base line just over Dubich's glove, scoring Swanger.

"It was pitcher's duel, which it is supposed to be in a championship series," Aftanas said. "I want to take my hat off to the West Hempfield pitcher Roach," Aftanas said. "He kept us off-balance -- we only had two hits up until the seventh inning. "When you get strong starting pitching and it gives us a chance, I think that was the key."

Game 2 of the series is at 5:30 p.m. today at Valley High School.