PHILIPSBURG — The Centre County Baseball League has its first new champion since 2004.
The Philipsburg Spike Island Pirates, in their fourth try, unseated the Lemont Ducks with a wild, come-from- behind 11-10 victory on Sunday at Philipsburg-Osceola High School Field.
The win completed a 3-0 sweep in the best-of-five championship series and gave Philipsburg its first ever County League championship. It also broke Lemont’s seven-season championship win streak and ended Philipsburg’s three years of frustrating championship series losses at the hands of the Ducks.
“Today was not a bad day at all,” said Philipsburg second baseman Matt Curtis, who had two home runs and four RBIs in the game. “And it has been a long time coming. Those guys (Lemont) are seven-time returning champs. We fell behind early (7-2), we didn’t play our best, but they didn’t put us away.
“We have been playing like that all year. We came back tough, and this is a big win for us. I feel really good to finally win that championship for Spike Island.”
With the score tied at 10-10 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Matt McCamley’s one-out line drive over the head of Lemont right fielder Gabe Menna scored JD Mason with the winning run and securing the series.
But it was really the bottom of the sixth inning that propelled Philipsburg.
Down 8-6 with only two at-bats remaining, the Pirates smashed three home runs in the inning — by Curtis, Ryan Mostyn and Tyler Good — scored four runs and took a 10-8 lead into the final frame.
“We were really trying to work him (Lemont pitcher Aaron Tressler),” Curtis said about his second home run. “I mean, Aaron is a great pitcher. I don’t know what his record is over the years, but he is great. I was just trying to work him deep in the count, but he made a mistake. He left the ball out over the plate and I got it. I drove it out into the outfield and over the fence.”
Lemont was not done yet, however. In the top of the seventh and facing Philipsburg ace Josh Potter, Brad Holzwarth singled and Nick Caruthers doubled, putting runners at second and third with one out. Ben Sallade then belted a screaming line drive that seemed to handcuff centerfielder McCamley and rolled all the way to the wall to tie the game.
Another single by Austin Mock put runners at first and third with the dangerous Jhonny Martinez due up. However, with the infield drawn in, Potter got Martinez to hit a sharp grounder right at second baseman Mostyn, and the Pirates turned the double play to end the inning.
Still, the score was tied, and Lemont had new life.
“We’re kind of known for that (coming back),” Lemont coach Dan Sowash said. “We always like to go out there and never give up. It has been seven straight now, and you don’t win seven straight without having guts. We just go out there and play ball, and it’s never over until it’s over.”
In the Philipsburg seventh, Mason led off getting by a pitch. He was sacrificed over to second by Jeremy Potter, and Curtis walked to bring up McCamley. He wasted little time sending the ball over Menna’s head and bringing the championship to Philipsburg.
“That felt awesome,” McCamley said. “After I misplayed that ball in center field, I just felt awful for Josh (Potter) and I needed something to happen. I wanted to put a good swing on the ball, and at 2-0 he threw a fastball and I drove it that way.
“We are usually a free-swinging team, and when we see fastball, we come out swinging.”
As Mason crossed the plate, the Pirate players swarmed out of the dougout, fans streamed onto the field and the celebration was on.
“I can’t really explain it,” right fielder A.J. Robinson said. “I mean, a walk-off win like that, there aren’t any words that you can say to explain it.
“I think he (McCamley) kind of planned it after he missed that ball in center field. He knew he was coming up, and then he had a chance to win it for us, and he did.”
The teams combined for 28 hits and five home runs, two by Lemont (Caruthers to lead off the game and Martinez), and five by Philipsburg (two by Curtis and one each for Mostyn, Jon Shaffer and Good).
Lemont had leads of 4-0 and 7-2, but the Ducks were unable to stop the Pirate hitters when it counted — in this game and in the series.
“We are the champions, and it feels good to say that,” McCamley said. “They said it for seven years, and now we can say it for at least one.”