The Warriors' Bo Duka makes contact with the ball while at bat in Sunday's home game against Norchester.
Trey Livingstone and Rob Guzman combined on a four-hit shutout as the Upper Perk Warriors outlasted Norchester 1-0 in extra innings on Sunday to remain in the thick of the 13-year-old Legion Prep playoff race.
Livingstone, relying mostly on his fastball, was dominant for seven innings, limiting the visitors to three hits while striking out seven. Guzman took over in the eighth and worked his way out of a one-out jam before his teammates pushed across the only run of the game in the bottom of the inning.
It was a defensive implosion that gave the Warriors the win. Norchester reliever Lief Wergeland got Bo Duka to ground to short leading off the inning, but Nate Cummins’ throw sailed over first baseman Dan Stofko, and Duka was safe. Before a pitch was thrown to the next hitter, Livingstone, Wergeland’s attempted pickoff skipped past Stofko, moving Duka to second.
Livingstone put down a sacrifice bunt in front of the plate that was fielded by catcher Joe Maltia, but his throw to first went into rightfield, allowing Duka to score.
Pitching plus defense plus small ball equals victory has been the formula Coach Rick Rossiter has been emphasizing with his young team.
“I think this team is going to have to play a lot (of small ball). We don’t have homerun hitters; we have a decent pitching staff, and they need to learn small ball. I think that’s something that we really focus on, something that they really haven’t done in the past. Bunt, bunt, bunt, that’s one thing we really emphasize.”
Livingstone, who will be in eighth grade at the Upper Perk Middle School next year, pitched out of first-inning trouble. After a single by Austin Levengood and a walk to Maltia, Livingstone, who pitches out of the stretch all the time, struck out Mark Amadio. He did not allow another baserunner until Amadio reached on a throwing error in the fifth.
Amadio was quickly erased by a strong throw from catcher Charlie Haag on a steal attempt.
In the seventh, Norchester’s Levengood started the inning with a flared basehit to right. Wergeland bunted him to second, but when Levengood strayed too far past the second base bag, first baseman Cory Aldinger alertly threw to third to start a rundown that resulted in Levengood being tagged out.
Livingstone retired the next hitter to complete his afternoon without allowing a runner to third.
“Trey’s done a great job all year long,” said Rossiter. “He just pumps strikes in there night in, night out. I can count on putting him in there just to throw strikes. He delivers every time he goes out.”
Meanwhile, the Warriors wasted a couple of opportunities against Norchester starter Bran-don Ott. In the third, a two second and third situation ended with Duka’s hard one-hopper to the mound.
In the seventh, singles by Nick Schmoyer and Brian Tice and a walk to Aldinger loaded the bases with one out. But Jerek Svanson bounced to the mound for a force at the plate and Logan Curley flew to center.
The win leaves the Warriors (10-9-1, 6-8-1) in the middle of the potential eight team playoff field with several games still left in the regular season; not bad for a team composed mostly of seventh graders trying to adjust to wood bats for the first time.
“For us it’s been difficult. Night in, night out we’re basically putting a seventh grade team out against eighth grade teams,” Rossiter noted. “It’s part of the problem we run into, but we definitely have a lot of talent.