Marion Center outlasts Northern Cambria to take Heritage baseball title

HOMER CITY, Pa. – Noah McCoy knocked in Dakota Bracken for the eventual winning run in the top of the ninth inning of the Stingers’ 3-2 Heritage Conference championship victory over Northern Cambria on Monday evening at First Commonwealth Bank Field.

Bracken stretched a one-out line drive that deflected off the glove of Colts’ third baseman Caleb Dolney and into left field into a double, beating the throw by sliding underneath second baseman Ben Messina’s tag.

After taking third on a wild pitch, Bracken trotted home on a Noah McCoy single through the left side of the infield to break the tie.

Marion Center ripped four of their nine hits in the top of the ninth inning.

McCoy and Alex Stewart had two hits; Parker Black went 3-for-4 for Marion Center.

“The middle of their lineup has some really good hitters,” Northern Cambria coach Brian Bougher said. “They found the holes at the right time and there isn’t much we can do about that.”

Braden Reichenbach, who came in to pitch in relief of Bracken two innings earlier, sent down the Colts in order in the ninth inning to earn the win.

Marion Center, who defeated United 3-1 in the 2022 title game, has won back-to-back conference titles and four overall.

The Colts were in search of their second Heritage Conference title and first since winning in 2014.

Offense was tough to come by as the pitching on both sides was outstanding.

Bracken started for the Stingers and allowed two singles, two unearned runs over six innings while striking out nine. The left-handed Reichenbach pitched the final three frames for Marion Center without allowing a run and striking out five.

The Colts’ starter Shaun Gisler pitched into the sixth inning before leaving with the score tied 2-2.

Alex Stewart walked and later scored on a first inning wild pitch to put Marion Center up 1-0. Bracken made it 2-0 in the top of the third inning scoring on Stewart’s RBI.

Evan Wiewiora relieved Gisler in the sixth inning and maneuvered the Colts out of a bases-loaded jam, striking out two and getting the Stingers’ Trey Slovinsky to pop out to shortstop.

Gisler then sliced a one-out single in the fifth and moved to second on a Ty Dumm sacrifice bunt. Leadoff hitter Brad Valeria drove a Bracken two-strike pitch to deep right field to score Gisler and came around to tie it at 2-all on an error off the bat of Owen Bougher.

“We got a couple of base runners in the fifth,” Bougher said. “We found a way in that inning to get those runners across using some small ball.”

The Colts couldn’t keep the momentum going, only two runners reached safely after the fifth inning and one past second base.

Stingers pitching fanned the Colts eight times over the final four innings.

“It’s just that our bats weren’t on today,” Bougher said. “We are a lot better hitting team than it showed today and its simple, if we can get our bats working, it’s a totally different game.”

“We swung at some bad pitches and overextended a little at the plate. The kids were amped up for this one and weren’t as patient as we should have been.”

Both Marion Center and Northern Cambria have clinched playoff berths in the upcoming District 6-2A playoffs.

Northern Cambria is currently the No. 4-seed, one spot behind the Stingers, and will host their playoff opener on Friday.

“Evan will be ok on Friday,” Bougher said. “His pitch count wasn’t too high in this one, so having to pitch him in this game has no effect on the upcoming playoffs.”

Marion Center outlasts Northern Cambria to take Heritage baseball title

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