By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Matt Marston might as well have worn one of those signs you see affixed to the cabinet holding a standard-issue fire extinguisher -- break glass in case of emergency.
Marston's Central baseball team had a regular five-alarm fire of an emergency before Saturday's consolation game in the inaugural Harry Combs Classic. Already short on pitching from an injury Friday night, the Falcons lost another hurler to injury on Saturday.
Suddenly, Marston -- designated the Falcons' emergency pitcher by coach Donn Foltz -- had a great deal to say as to whether Central would end the day with a split or a sweep. Sent to the hill to start against Curwensville (Pa.) in the consolation game, Marston pitched four solid innings in his first career varsity start as the Falcons salvaged the day with a 6-4 victory.
"We brought him up [from junior varsity] as an emergency pitcher, and good thing we did because we had a guy hurt last night and a guy hurt today who wasn't going to be able to pitch," Foltz said.
Curwensville, which lost 14-4 to Broadway in Saturday's opening round, jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Tanner Elensky stroked a leadoff single, then stole second. Brett Gardner followed with another single that was misplayed for an error as Elensky came around to score.
Instead of rattling Marston, the deficit seemed to help the Falcons' sophomore settle down as he struck out the next three batters to escape the jam without further damage.
"We made some errors behind him," Foltz said. "He pitched well. He pitched four solid innings."
Central (5-3) came right back with a pair of runs in the first inning, then staked Marston to a sizable lead with a four-run fourth. Jordan Rau delivered a two-run double, John Plunkett followed with a run-scoring single and Sean Semones capped the rally with an RBI triple as the Falcons pushed ahead to a 6-1 lead.
The Golden Tide cut into that margin with three runs in the fourth, but Falcons reliever Ben Kline silenced Curwensville over the final three innings to record the save and preserve Marston's first varsity win. Marston finished the day by allowing four runs (three earned) off six hits while striking out three.
Offensively, Rau was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs, Plunkett went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and Hayden Bauserman was 2-for-3 for Central.
The win helped Central neutralize a lopsided 16-6 loss to East Hardy (W.Va.) in Saturday's opening round.
"That was a good game until about the fifth inning," Foltz said. "We brought some young 'uns in and they didn't have quite as good luck."
The Falcons led 5-3 entering the fifth inning, but the Cougars scored six runs in both the fifth and sixth to pull away. Central committed five errors in the loss. Korey Foltz ripped a two-run homer and Tyler Mongold was 2-for-3 with two runs scored to lead the Cougars. Mongold also turned in a complete-game effort on the mound for the win.
"They're a quality program," Foltz said. "We didn't capitalize on opportunities, and the way they swing it you've got to take advantage when you've got a chance."
Eric Semones led the Falcons with a 2-for-2 effort at the plate, plus two runs scored for Central. Plunkett and Kaleb Orndorff both went 2-for-4 and scored a run, and Daniel Bauserman was 2-for-4 for the Falcons.
Broadway topped East Hardy, 10-7, to claim the championship.