Connellsville rallies to win season opener
The Connellsville Legion baseball team needed a few innings to shake off the rust as they started the season at home against Farmington.
But after being held scoreless through the first five innings, Connellsville scored one run in each of the last four innings on its way to a 4-3 comeback victory.
“This is exactly what we did last year,” said Connellsville manager Sherwood Hughes as he noted that in 2003, Connellsville came from behind to nip Charleroi in the season opener. “Hopefully this is a good omen.”
The game shaped up into a pitcher’s duel early as Connellsville’s Travis Henry and Farmington’s Nate Fike each took turns shutting down opposing hitters.
But in the third, the visitors broke through with an unearned run as Mike George struck out, but reached first on a wild pitch. He eventually scored on a wild pitch to give Farmington a 1-0 lead. Then in the fourth, Farmington made it 2-0 as Kellen Leib was hit with a pitch, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Nate Klingensmith.
Meanwhile, Fike continued to keep Connellsville’s offense in check as he held the home team to no runs on just two hits through the first five innings.
“You have to give their lefty credit,” Sherwood Hughes said of Fike. “He’ll win some games for them.”
Fike was impressive, but Connellsville finally touched him up for a run in the sixth as Wes Hughes led off with a single and stole second. Then with one out, Zack Leonard ripped a shot up the middle that plated Hughes to make it 2-1.
Connellsville tied it with some small ball in the seventh. After Rich Schleihauf led off with a single, Aaron Bell and Jason Goodwin each bunted for a base hit to load the bases. Then Ryan Firestone laid down a suicide squeeze that scored Schleihauf to tie the game. Connellsville tried to take the lead, but Farmington escaped further damage thanks to a botched bunt that resulted in an inning-ending double play.
“We have to execute,” Sherwood Hughes said. “Most of these boys have been doing that all year. We’ll get it done.”
The game stayed tied until the first pitch in the eighth as Gregg Billy greeted reliever Casey Shultz by smacking the first pitch over the fence in center to give Farmington a 3-2 lead. But after that, Shultz struck out the side. He also worked a scoreless ninth to get the win.
“Our pitchers did a really nice job,” Sherwood Hughes said. “They kept us in the game.”
Connellsville tied it in the eighth when Chris Pepe returned the favor as he blasted a solo shot over the fence in center off reliever Howie King.
Then with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth, Pepe stepped up and delivered a game-winning single that scored Jason Goodwin.
“Chris always comes through in the clutch,” Sherwood Hughes said.
Connellsville (1-0) will be back in action on Wednesday when it travels to Charleroi.