The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

June 29, 2014

Little League: Danville majors stave off elimination with win

DANVILLE — Zach Zerbe could only watch as Berwick’s Alex Sharkuski danced around his tag on a play at the plate.

What could have turned to frustration quickly turned into elation as the Danville catcher spun around and slapped his glove on Sharkuski for an out.

After the first-inning scare, Danville’s offense quickly pounced, beating Berwick, 5-2, in the District 13 Major Division elimination bracket final at Washies Field on Sunday.

Danville will play North Columbia on Tuesday, needing two wins for the title.

“We struggled with the bats in the last game and we needed them to come through today and they did,” Danville coach Brandon Koser said.

A possible early run for Berwick was stopped as Sharkuski managed to stretch himself out to avoid Zerbe’s first attempt at a tag but the athletic move carried Sharkuski past the plate, unable to reach his foot back and touch the plate.

With a bit of help from his catcher, K.J. Riley escaped the first inning without allowing a run and Riley quickly helped himself as the second hitter to the plate in the bottom of the inning, ripping a single up the middle. Riley hustled around to third as the ball slithered past the Berwick center fielder.

Riley scored two batters later and Colton Sidler and Brett McGaw followed with two-out singles. Sidler came around to score on a pitch that rolled to the backstop to give Danville an early 2-0 lead.

With a lead to work with, Riley settled in on the mound with help from his defense and an ability to blow his fastball past the Berwick hitters. Riley took the rubber for Danville with his team needing a win to stave off elimination and the right-hander delivered, working five innings of three-hit ball and striking out seven.

“He’s automatic,” Koser said of Riley. “He’s a kid no matter what position you put him in, you know it’s going to be played well, flawless. You can ride him for awhile. He does well.”

Riley reared back and fired to work his way out of a fifth-inning jam with runners on the corners and one out, striking out two hitters at the top of the Berwick order to keep his shutout going.

Berwick did not go down without a fight, though, as Anthony Ventura sent a pitch to the fence, legging out a run-scoring triple in the sixth inning to put Berwick on the board. Ventura scored on a throw down to second to cut Danville’s lead to 5-2.

Riley did not have the ball in his hand to start the seventh as Drew Sassaman came on to close the door but Riley was there to squeeze a pop-up for the final out.

Danville’s first four hitters in the lineup provided six of Danville’s nine hitters including setting the table in the third inning for Danville to extend its lead.

Zerbe and Riley reached on singles to start the inning before Josh Kopelcheck laid down a bunt to provide an RBI chance for Sidler. Sidler, McGaw and Mavin James each drove in a run following the bunt from Kopelcheck to move Zerbe and Riley into scoring position.

“You can be the home run leader of the team. If we need to go small ball and play the bunt, we’ll do it,” Koser said.

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