Armstrong had the three things working that every baseball team hopes to have in a championship game: timely hitting, good defense and dominant pitching.
Jack Valasek threw a 62-pitch gem, retiring the last 10 batters he faced, Logan Gawlinski smashed a three-run homer and the defense turned a double play and threw a runner out at home for Armstrong in a 14-0, five-inning victory over Deer Lakes in the District 26 All-Stars Majors Division championship Monday night at KESS Field in Elderton.
Armstrong advanced to the PA Section 2 tournament Saturday at North Allegheny.
Valasek allowed two hits and recorded six strikeouts. He also singled twice, walked and drove in three runs.
“Jack has been terrific so far through the district,” Armstrong manager Pete Gawlinski said. “He hasn’t given up a lot of hits, and we’ve had great defense behind him. We’ve had double plays when we’ve needed them, and we’ve made the routine plays. Sometimes there’s a little bit of luck involved too, but he’s been very dominant this year.”
After two scoreless innings, Logan Gawlinski connected on a pitch that cleared two fences in right field and nearly landed on the street behind the field for a three-run homer. Logan Badac and Kaiden Scheeren added RBI singles later in the inning to push the Armstrong lead to 5-0.
Armstrong continued to add on, scoring nine runs over the next two innings.
Valasek rarely found himself in trouble, but when he did he pitched out of it or got help from his defense. He snagged a comebacker with a runner on in the first that led to a 1-6-3 double play, and third baseman Logan Hooks threw out a runner at home with the game scoreless in the second.
“This is the first time we had seen (Valasek) in the tournament, and I guess fortunately we didn’t see him until tonight,” Deer Lakes coach Albie Fletcher said. “He threw strikes and changed speeds really well. He’s a fantastic baseball player. My hat’s off to him.”
Ben Foley and Joey Scanga singled for Deer Lakes. Lancers starter Billy Schaeffer struck out the side in the second after allowing the first two runners to reach.
Fletcher was proud of his team’s resiliency in the tournament, which included a comeback victory over West Point in the opener that helped propel them to a spot in the championship game.
The Lancers will host a tournament beginning Thursday with 45 teams ranging from 7U to 14U.