Greater Pittston got on a roll when the 2013 American Legion baseball playoff season arrived.
After winning a four-team playoff for the Wyoming Valley League’s second regional berth, Greater Pittston won a regional title to reach the state tournament.
To repeat that scenario, Greater Pittston first needs to get into the playoffs.
Greater Pittston enters its final three games – all at home today, Monday and Tuesday – in fifth-place in the eight-team league, uncertain if it needs to get into fourth or fifth place to advance.
Defending regular-season champion Swoyersville (12-0) has already clinched at least a tie for first. Swoyersville currently leads Plains (9-2) by 2 ½ games.
If Swoyersville finishes three or more games ahead of the pack, it takes one of two regional berths and the second- through fifth-place teams have a playoff for the second spot. Otherwise, four teams go to the playoffs and the two finalists advance to regionals.
Greater Pittston is 6-7, a half-game behind fourth-place Nanticoke (7-7).
The three home games is an advantage, but Greater Pittston has to try to overcome a more difficult schedule. After Hazleton dropped from the league, each team was assigned one opponent to play a third time to complete the 16-game league schedule.
Greater Pittston’s extra games are against second-place Plains and third-place Tunkhannock, which have a combined 19-6 record. Nanticoke drew Mountain Post and Wilkes-Barre, the league’s bottom two teams with a combined 4-22 record.
The tough match-ups continue with games against Tunkhannock today and Plains Monday before Tuesday’s finale against Wilkes-Barre in a game that was rained out Thursday.
“We just have to play better team baseball,” Greater Pittston manager Jerry Ranieli said. “We’re making too many mistakes on the bases and we’re not playing as a team.”
That showed up this week in an one-run, extra-inning loss to Nanticoke that is largely responsible for a drop from fourth to fifth place.
“We’re probably a little bit too overaggressive,” Ranieli said. “That’s what cost us against Nanticoke was we had two guys thrown out when we shouldn’t have.”
A look back at the week in American Legion baseball:
Tunkhannock 9, Greater Pittston 5
Greater Pittston was within, 6-5, in the bottom of the sixth inning until a dropped infield pop-up with the bases loaded broke the game open in Wednesday’s 9-5 loss at Tunkhannock.
“Jeremy Zezza pitched a good game,” Ranieli said. “It was nine runs, but seven of them were unearned.”
Zezza struck out six in six innings.
Joe Gavenonis, Tyler Mitchell and Lou Tzamalas each had two hits.
Nanticoke 4, Greater Pittston 3
Nanticoke edged Greater Pittston, 4-3, in nine innings Monday.
“Monday was a tough game,” Ranieli said. “We lost in seven innings to Nanticoke. That’s the second time this year.
“We made a couple stupid blunders on the bases that cost us a couple runs.”
Greater Pittston 11, Back Mountain 2
Joe Gavenonis, Jake Granteed, Jordan Zezza and Jeremy Zezza all had two hits as Greater Pittston defeated Back Mountain, 11-2, June 29.
“Matt Mott pitched a gem,” Ranieli said.
Matt went the distance and struck out seven.
Plains 6, Back Mountain 0
Plains kept its slim title hopes alive when it shut out Back Mountain, 6-0, Monday.
Greater Pittston held on to first place in the Wyoming Valley Youth (Junior) Legion league with two more wins. It defeated Hazleton, 14-3, June 28 and Tunkhannock, 2-1, in nine innings Tuesday to improve to 17-2.
Plains is second at 15-4 after beating Wilkes-Barre, 8-3, June 28 and losing to Swoyersville, 2-1, Tuesday.