Centre County League baseball: Lemont Ducks use big third inning to clinch eighth championship in nine seasons

Kyle Wright helped lift the Lemont Ducks then lifted the Centre County Baseball League championship trophy on Tuesday night.

Shortly after the Ducks dispatched the Howard Hawks 20-9 in Game 4 of the best-of-five series, Wright — who led Lemont with five RBIs — described he and his teammates as a squad without much star power.

That could prove a tough point to argue for after one glance at Tuesday’s scorecard. Ten different Ducks notched hits with seven knocking in runs. All-in-all, the Ducks pounded 21 hits — nine of them for extra bases — to cap their eighth championship in nine seasons with a 3-1 series win.

“Every single person in the lineup stepped up and did something great today and that’s all you can ask out of a team that doesn’t have a whole lot of superstars,” Wright said. “But we play well together and (we’re) good teammates. They’re fun to play with.”

But the fun had to wait until the top of the third. Beforehand, seventh-seeded Howard — which proved itself a pesky bunch having eliminated the top two seeds before running into the third-seeded Ducks — opened the game by taking advantage of Lemont mistakes.

Scott Zuback got the Hawks started with a solo home run off of Lemont starter Renny Parthemore. Zuback’s blast to center field preceeded a worrisome sequence for Parthemore who walked Evan Gettig, hit Clay Smith and walked Travis Price. A sacrifice fly from Tyler Womer and a three-run home run to left from Kyle Womer gave the Hawks a 5-0 lead.

A pro-Howard crowd was buzzing as Parthemore finnaly got Bones Fisher to ground out to end the inning.

“You saw in the first, they came out and capitalized on a couple of walks, a couple big hits of their own,” Wright said. “Anytime you get down to Howard you can hear the crowd. The crowd is electric here. They’ll ride you and ride you, but we knew with six innings left, come back, answer, calm them down.”

Lemont followed through on its gameplan in the top of the second.

Ben Sallade led off with a single and Erik Kempton doubled for the first of many extra-base hits for Lemont. Howard pitcher Tyler Womer then walked Wright before Eric Wolanski drove in Sallade and Kempton with a double to left. Scott Glass kept the hit parade going with an infield single that plated Wright. Nick Carothers added another RBI on a fielder’s choice before Womer recovered to retire two of the next three batters and preserve his team’s 5-4 lead.

But, Lemont kept coming.

After Parthemore retired three Howard hitters in the bottom of the second, Lemont blew the game open.

Sallade, who finished 4-for-5, doubled to start the Ducks’ frame. Erik Kempton and Wright hit back-to-back singles with Wright’s plating Sallade to tie the game. With one out, Glass singled to score Kempton and Carothers added an RBI-single to bring Wright home. Ryan Boonie lined a single to left that scored Glass, gave Lemont an 8-5 lead and chased Womer from the game.

It was an early exit for the Howard standout who pitched a complete game in Game 1, keeping the dangerous Lemont lineup off balance in a 5-3 win.

“I think guys had a better plan today,” Boonie said of his team’s strategy against Womer. “They were looking for a pitch in a spot and trying to get after fastballs, getting in plus counts, laying off off-speed stuff and really working into a count that’s in our favor.”

Howard inserted Luke Gardner to stem the tide but it ended up working in Lemont’s favor. As Gardner came in cold, Lemont was only getting hotter.

Gardner got Johnny Martinez to fly out for the second out with two men on base but loaded them when he hit Kieran Kempton. Sallade continued his torrid pace with a single to left center that plated two run to give Lemont a 10-5 lead. Erik Kempton made it 11-5 with an RBI double that dribbled down the third-base line and plated Kieran Kempton. Wright crushed the second pitch Gardner threw him for a three-run shot to left field, where it crashed into a tree behind the fence, leaving a trail of falling leaves and branches. It also gave Lemont a 14-5 lead.

“The first pitch I took I kind of wanted to get a guage on his speed, time him up a little bit,” Wright said. “He gave me a great pitch to hit and I put a good swing on it.”

Howard used patient at-bats to claw closer in the bottom of the third.

Parthemore walked Price and Womer with one out then gave up a single to Dan Cole to load the bases. Kyle Womer drew the third walk of the inning and fifth overall from Parthemore to plate Price. Parthemore was replaced by Clint Hicks who picked up the win despite walking in two runs. Rusty Gates drew the first one and Zuback drew another bases-loaded walk to cut Lemont’s lead to 14-8.

“I think they’re pretty resilient,” Boonie said of Howard. “They put the ball in play, they’ve got guys that can swing the bats and they came up with some big hits in some games. They got runners on and took advantage of that and that’s what good teams do.”

But, Boonie added a three-run homer off of Gardner in the top of the fourth to push Lemont’s lead to an insurmountable 17-8.

Lemont added two runs in the top of the sixth and Howard didn’t get a runner into scoring position until the final frame. Then, Womer led off with a single and Cole drove him in with a double to center. But Hicks retired three of the next four hitters he faced to clinch Lemont’s win.

It was a much more satisfying conclusion for the Ducks, who lost to Philipsburg in the championship series last season.

“Last year was tough. Philipsburg was a good team but we gave a couple of games away,” Wright said. “We wanted to leave no doubt about it this year that we still are the best.”