BUTLER TWP — Larry Stelitano wasn't satisfied with simply taking an early lead.
“Butler (Township) has a lot of injuries, a lot of guys who aren't here,” said Stelitano, Cranberry Township's manager. “They came out flat and we had to take advantage of that.”
So when Cranberry scored just one run in the top of the first inning despite four Butler errors and was then set down in order in the second, Stelitano wanted his players to feel the urgency in Tuesday's Butler County Area Baseball League elimination game at Highfield Park.
“Butler is the defending champion,” he said. “We couldn't let them stay in the game. We couldn't let up.”
Cranberry responded by plating 10 runs on seven hits in the top of the third and went on to post a 17-0, five-inning win.
The result ends Butler Township's season and sends Cranberry to the final game of the loser's bracket Thursday at Freeport.
Pine Richland, which has yet to lose in the double-elimination tournament, awaits the winner Saturday.
BT manager Tyler Friel saw an ominous sign in the opening moments of Tuesday's contest. Cranberry leadoff hitter Evan Schneider reached base on a fielding error. Three more miscues came later in the inning and the team made eight errors in the game.
Butler starting pitcher John Piroch limited the damage early, striking out Zach Snyder to leave runners at second and third base in the first.
Things unraveled quickly in the third frame, however. Schneider walked, stole second and scored on Clayton Blucher's base hit.
Jacob Coon singled before Butler's defense committed two more miscues, allowing another run to score.
Piroch was pulled in favor of Bayden Davenport, but Cranberry sent 11 more batters to the plate before the end of the inning.
“We had to play as well as we possibly could tonight and the exact opposite happened,” said Friel. “We started the season with a small roster and several guys weren't here tonight. Not to make excuses, it's just reality.”
Stanick, who finished the game with four RBI, also did the job on the mound for Cranberry (12-5). He came back out for the bottom of the third inning and, despite the 30-minute gap due to his team's offensive outburst, picked up right where he left off.
Nine consecutive outs came via strikeout and Stanick finished the game with 10 strikeouts, two walks and scattered four hits in five innings.
“My big concern with Matt is, at times, his control,” Stelitano said. “But when he's throwing strikes, he's one of the best pitchers in this league.”
“After I came in from batting (during the 10-run inning), I was able to get out and throw some,” Stanick said. “So, I was pretty loose when I took the mound again.”
Sammy Baic led Cranberry's 13-hit onslaught with two singles and a double, scored twice and drove in two runs.
Remy Pardo, C.J. Singleton and Braden Marcellus each pitched in relief for Butler (12-4-1).
Cranberry was defeated by Freeport twice this season, including a 7-3 playoff decision last week. Freeport (13-2-1) was the tournament's top seed, but lost to Pine Richland, 6-3, last Saturday.
“We'll be ready,” said Stelitano. “To win it all in this league, you have to go through the top teams and we welcome the challenge.”
Cranberry Twp. 10(10) 60x x — 17 13 0
Butler Twp. 000 00x x — 0 4 8
W: Matt Stanick 5 IP (10K, 2BB). L: John Piroch 2+ IP (3K, 1BB).
Cranberry Township (12-5): Clayton Blucher 2-1B 2RBI, Jacob Coon 2-1B 3R 2RBI, Matt Stanick 1B 2B 4RBI, Sammy Baic 2-1B 2B 2R 2RBI, Zach Snyder 1B 2B R 3RBI, Matt Lewis 2B
Butler Township (12-4-1): Josh Bonetti 1B, Zack Slomers 1B, C.J. Singleton 1B, Ryan Hepfl 1B
Thursday: Cranberry Township at Freeport, 6 p.m.