Leadoff hitter belts game-winning grand slam
FORD CITY — Burrell shortstop Dan Mangini isn’t exactly known for a powerful bat.
Burrell’s leadoff hitter is better known as a contact hitter who moves base runners an extra 90 feet for the middle part of the Bucs’ lineup.
Tuesday afternoon, Mangini even surprised himself with his power.
The senior hit a fastball that was nearly over his head in the top half of the eighth inning with the bases loaded for his first home run of the season. His grand slam lifted Burrell past Ford City, 6-2, as the Bucs (3-0, 5-1) remained unbeaten in Section 3-AA. Ford City dropped to 1-2 in the section and 3-3 overall.
“I knew I hit it good,” Mangini said. “I was surprised. I thought they called it a book-rule-double.”
Burrell coach Mark Spohn didn’t see the ball sail over the left-field fence. He was watching Dave Kunkle, who was on third base, for the possible sacrifice fly.
“I knew he hit it hard,” Spohn said. “I knew it was hard enough to score one. By the time I looked up, it was gone.”
Mangini took Ford City starting pitcher Jesse Stivason’s 3-2 pitch and muscled it over for the winning four runs.
“They are a heck of a team,” Ford City coach Larry Cujas said. “They earned the respect of the section. They have a solid lineup.”
Stivason ran into trouble in the eighth inning.
Kunkle led off the inning with a sharp single to right field and went to second after Tyler Reifschneider walked. Ford City’s defense then looked confused.
Josh Dennis put down a perfect bunt back to the pitcher to advance the runners. Stivason picked up the ball, and the Sabers bench yelled for him to throw to third base. But by the time he looked, it was too late. He then turned to first, but no one covering the bag.
“I might have left Stivason in too long,” Cujas said. “But he is a battler. His pitch count was getting high. Mangini was his last batter. He gave it his best.”
Ford City jumped on Burrell for two runs in the first inning.
Carter Haponski led off the game for Ford City with a double. Ryan Hand followed with a single to move Haponski to third. Stivason helped his cause with an RBI single and Nathan Kutsch grounded out, but Hand scored to give Ford City a 2-0 lead after the first inning.
After the first inning, Burrell pitchers Shawn People and Aaron Brown surrendered only two hits in the final seven innings.
“(Brown) did a fantastic job,” Spohn said. “Shawn Peoples did a great job early.”
“We aren’t hitting the ball,” Cujas said. “To beat a team like that, you have to do all three things well. You have to hit the ball, pitch and field.”
Burrell has eight days until it resumes section play against West Shamokin on April 19.
Cujas isn’t concerned about Ford City’s sub-par section play.
“We will be fine,” he said. “We were 0-3 last year, and we are 1-2 this year. I told the kids we have to take care of the other teams.”
The Sabers will begin to look to take care of other teams when they play West Shamokin on Wednesday.