NANTICOKE — A few feet more to the right and Nanticoke is playing well past 10 p.m. on Saturday night.
But as Jake Krupinski’s crushing blast disappeared foul into the darkness, so did a chance at victory.
Instead, Archbald used a fourth-inning grand slam by Dylan Howanitz to defeat Nanticoke 6-4 in the Section 5 Little League Major Baseball tournament.
District 16 champ Nanticoke drops to the elimination bracket where it will play D17 champ Dunmore at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. D32 champ Archbald plays D31 champion Back Mountain American at 5:30 p.m. in the winners bracket. Both games are at the Nanticoke Little League.
Trailing by two runs, Nanticoke’s Colby Butczynski opened the sixth with a walk. He managed to get to third with two outs on a couple wild pitches. That brought Krupinski to the plate and he destroyed an 0-1 pitch to left field, well above the fence but just foul. Archbald reliever Chase Combs then made a diving catch on a soft liner to end the game.
And end what could have been a long night at the field.
The game began 40 minutes past its scheduled 7:30 p.m. start as American’s 11-7 over Dunmore ran late. Then the game was delayed in the fifth when a fourth Archbald coach came on the field while Combs was warming up in foul territory. Little League rules prohibit more than three coaches on the field at any time.
The coach, Combs and another Archbald player went outside the fence to continue warming up. But the umpires needed clarification on whether one of the three on-field coaches had to go outside the fence while Combs warmed up. So a call was placed to Little League Eastern Region headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.
Once that was cleared up, a Nanticoke player suffered an injury that delayed the game once again. The final out came at about 10:20 p.m.
Trailing 2-0, Nanticoke scored all four of its runs in the third. Krupinski brought in Chris Ormes with a single and Adam Eckhart also scored when the ball was misplayed in the outfield. Dylan Szychowski followed with a single, and he and Krupinski scored on Colin Brown’s double for a 4-2 lead.
The advantage didn’t last long as Howanitz blasted a grand slam well over the scoreboard in left field for a 6-4 Archbald lead in the top of the fourth.
Nanticoke didn’t have a hit after the four-hit, four-run third. Eckhardt had the only other hit for the D16 champion, a double off the right-field fence to open the game.
Dixon Black took the win for Archbald, pitching four innings with four strikeouts. Combs recorded the save by firing two innings of hitless ball while recording five strikeouts.