DuBOIS, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Leading 7-0 after four innings, the Johnsonburg baseball team was feeling pretty good.
Redbank Valley, though, had one more comeback in it.
The Bulldogs closed to 7-5, but the Rams added two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth and Aiden Zimmerman got a strikeout sandwiched around a a pair of flyouts with one on in the top of the seventh to win the District 9 Class 2A title, 9-5, at Showers Field Monday afternoon.
“Hats off to Redbank Valley,” said Johnsonburg coach Mike Porter. “A lot of teams would melt away with a (7-0 deficit). They didn’t. We gave them a window with a couple of mistakes and they kept coming after us. Our guys have to learn when you have a team down, you have to step on them. You can’t let them breathe.”
Redbank Valley (11-6) rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the seventh inning in the semifinals Thursday against Karns City for a 3-2 win to advance to the district title game.
This frantic comeback, however, fell short.
“One thing about being a bunch of sophomores and juniors is we’re too young to give up,” said Redbank Valley coach Craig Hibell. “We play the game like kids and we play hard all the time. That’s the No. 1 thing I’m happy with today — our effort.
The Bulldogs, though, found themselves in an early hole.
Johnsonburg scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning off Redbank starter Bryson Bain thanks to a pair of miscues by the Bulldogs.
Dom Allegretto managed to dance around a tag to dive safely into third base on a single by Zimmerman. Both then scored on a dropped fly ball on a towering drive into a clear, blue sky to left field by Cam Marciniak for a 2-0 lead. Kaden Dennis later knocked him on with a fielder’s choice groundout.
The lead swelled to 7-0 in the bottom of the fourth.
Allegretto singled home a run, Marciniak provided another big blow with a two-run single and another run scored on an error.
Things for Redbank looked bleak.
But the Bulldogs answered Johnsonburg’s four runs with four of their own in the top of the fifth, all with two outs.
Tate Minich walked with the bases loaded to chase Rams’ starter Luke Zimmerman.
With Aiden Zimmerman on the hill, Bain singled home a pair of runs and then Breckin Minich brought home his cousin, Tate Minich, to cut the lead to 7-4.
Redbank made it 7-5 with another bases loaded walk by Minich, but the Bulldogs left the bases loaded.
“Luke was doing pretty well, but you can see at the end there, he was getting gassed,” Porter said. “It’s pushing 90 (degrees). We had Collin (Porter) sitting there of Aiden got tired. That’s the luxury of having four guys you are comfortable with.”
Luke Zimmerman got the win. He was charged with four runs on four hits in 4⅔ innings, striking out seven and walking three.
Aiden Zimmerman went 2⅓ innings, striking out two and walking three. He gave up one unearned run on three hits.
Allegretto went 3-for-4 and Aiden Zimmerman was 2-for-3 with three runs scored for Johnsonburg, which will have a week off before opening the PIAA Class 2A playoffs June 6.
“When it comes down to it, the little things win you ballgames,” Porter said.
The little things may have cost Redbank.
Bain got the loss, giving up eight hits in 3⅔ innings. Errors hurt Bain.
Cam Wagner relieved the senior and kept the Bulldogs in the game, going 2 ⅓ innings, striking out two.
Redbank Valley can still play its way into the state playoff bracket.
The Bulldogs will take on the District 3 runner-up at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Pa.
“We’re not done yet,” Hibell said. “We’re gonna go on to Wednesday for a play-in game to the state playoffs and fight as long as we can. Our guys proved today they don’t quit. This was obviously not the result we wanted, but I’m proud of the way we fought today.”