BY RYAN COBB Sports writer
DIVES RIGHT IN — Westmoreland third baseman Dan Smith retrieves the wide throw as Hamilton’s Lucas Rhyde dives into the bag during a Center State Conference Division III matchup on Monday in Westmoreland. Looking on at the left is Hamilton coach Joe LePage. The Bulldogs went on to post a 10-7 victory. (Sentinel photo by Lindsay A. Mogle)
WESTMORELAND — All it took was one big inning for the Westmoreland baseball team to pick up a 10-7 victory over Hamilton on Monday in a battle of Center State Conference Division III unbeatens.
The Bulldogs kept their league record perfect at 4-0 in the rainy league contest off a six-run outburst in the third inning off Emerald Knights hurler Dan Philhower to back up their own ace, senior Brandon Jones, who was having difficulty keeping the ball over the plate.
The top of the order of the Bulldogs lineup came out on fire in the inning. With the Bulldogs ahead 2-1, Dan Smith delivered a RBI single before Jones drilled his first varsity triple.
"I really didn’t think I was going to hit a triple but I knew when I hit that fastball clean, I knew it was going," Jones said. "I just got on my horse and tried to make it to third base and luckily I did."
Jones would soon score off a throwing error by Hamilton third baseman Ben Yacavone to make it 5-2, and the top of the order then came through when Travis Rogers hit a bases loaded infield single and Craig Pawlikowski followed after with a two-run single of his own to break it open at 8-2.
Four of the top five hitters in the Bulldogs lineup had two hits, including lead-off man Rogers, Pawlikowski, Jones, and Ryan Murphy, while Smith had three hits and two RBIs as the No. 3 hitter. Pawlikowski also drove in three runs as the No. 2 hitter.
"They’re some really talented hitters," said Westmoreland coach Jason Tagliaferri.
"It’s nice, and I hope they keep it going. There are not a lot of outs there in that group because they’re patient and come through in the clutch."
The Bulldogs were cruising into the sixth inning with the score at 10-3 and Jones on the mound working towards his second career no-hitter despite losing the shutout. But his command wasn’t as good as his first no-hitter earlier this season, as he struggled keeping runners on base with 12 walks in the contest. He left the game after giving up his first hit, a two-run triple by Jack Sullivan in the sixth.
"Brandon didn’t have as much as he usually does," said Tagliaferri. "He was having some trouble with his location, (It) just wasn’t as sharp as normal. He also was having trouble gripping the ball because it’s wet out but he’s a battler and tried to throw what worked."
Jones improved his pitching record to 4-1, allowing four earned runs and striking out six in 5 2/3 innings.
The senior said he will work harder in preparation for his next start because despite allowing one hit, he was not thrilled about the opposing batters earning as many free passes as they did.
"I’ve just got to try to hit my spots and work a little bit in practice on my control and probably play with a slippery ball and work on that," he said. "But I’ve got to definitely bring down the walks, because I had 12 today, which was pretty pathetic. I know I can do better."
The Emerald Knights showed some fight at the end by scoring five runs in the game’s final two innings, but it was too little too late as they fell to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the league.
"They beat us last year to a game similar to this," said Tagliaferri.
"They were down and they came back in the last inning and it felt like deja vu all over again. They’re a good, quality team and are going to be one of the ones to beat if we want to win this league."
Dan Meeka scored a run with a hit and drove in two RBIs to lead Hamilton, while Lucas Rhyde had two runs and an RBI.
Dan Philhower retrieved the loss on the hill in four innings of work and allowed eight runs on nine hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
Tagliaferri was most pleased with the Bulldogs’ defense for trying to keep Jones’ no-hit game together despite him allowing so many runners to get on base.
"The defense helped a little bit and made some plays but we got a little sloppy throwing the ball there at the end," he said, referring to the Bulldogs making two errors in the sixth inning and three total.
"For the most part they threw the ball and made those plays but got a little trigger happy. I like our infield defense for the most part because when the ball gets put in play, if we field those it helps our pitchers do a lot less."
The Bulldogs will look to make it five league wins in a row when they host Morrisville-Eaton on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.