On an overcast evening on the shores of The Big Lake, local baseball fans were treated to a classic pitchers’ duel courtesy of Erik Pulkkinen and Manny Balines.
Pulkkinen, unchallenged ace of Hawley’s Senior American Legion squad, took the hill to face Milford’s top twirler in Game One of the District 15 finals.
Erik was fresh off a stellar performance in the semifinals, having allowed just one hit while striking out 12 against Hamlin. Balines pitched his team to a sweep of Montrose on the other side of the bracket, setting the stage for an epic showdown.
No one left the Paupack field disappointed on this particular night as Pulkkinen and Balines were both brilliant. Sadly for a vocal group of Toros fans, errors on the basepaths and in the field ultimately led to a 2-0 victory for Milford.
“They didn’t win this one, we lost it,”?an emotionally drained Coach Chad Goetz said afterward. “We gave this game away. All we can do now is turn the page and put it behind us. There’s always tomorrow...”
Weather permitting, what tomorrow was scheduled to bring Game Two of this best-of-three set. Should Post 311 stave off elimination, rubber match would be played this evening at 5:30 p.m. in Hawley.
Pulkkinen was just overpowering in the early innigs of this ballgame.
A fireballing righty, Erik struck out two of the first three batters he faced and wound up the night with a total of seven Ks.
Balines seemed to be on the verge of disaster all evening, but managed to work his way out each time. Manny allowed at least one baserunner in every inning save one, but Hawley just couldn’t take advantage.
The Toros ran themselves into trouble in the bottom of the second.
David Ortiz led off with a single, but then promptly got himself picked off first base. Kenny Ciszak followed with a walk, took second on a wild pitch, but was then cut down trying to steal third.
Pulkkinen was on cruise control through the opening four frames. In fact, Erik didn’t allow a basehit until the top of the fifth whan Milford scored the game’s only runs.
Tim Volovka finally broke the ice, leading off with a line single to center. Zach Stauffer moved Volovka to second by dropping down a textbook sacrifice.
Joe Addvensky then set the wheels in motion with a dribbler down the third baseline. Pulkkinen bounded off the mound, fielded the ball, but unleashed a wild throw to first which scored Volovka.
Moments later, Milford made it 2-0 with a perfectly executed squeeze play by Drew Sciano.
Over & Out
Ciszak gave Hawley fans hope in the bottom of the fourth with a 2-out triple.
Kenny was followed on base by Macrus Bond, who walked. Balines then dug down to retire the side, stranding both runners.
“I?think we played pretty well overall, but you can’t win if you don’t score and we need to get back on track tomorrow,”?Coach Goetz said.
Score by Innings...
MIL (12-5) 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 - 2
HAW (14-3) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0