Hegins Teeners fall

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LLEWELLYN - Branch starter Zach Brown pitched out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the top of the first.

Branch's offense carried that momentum and responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning.

It turned out to be all the support Brown needed.

In his first start of the year, Brown pitched a one-hit shutout, while Gino DiNicola and Dave Pedron had two hits apiece in Branch's 3-0 victory over Hegins in a Schuylkill County Teener League Senior Division game Friday, June 21.

The win was the fourth consecutive for Branch (9-6), which took over first place in the West Division. Branch had three regular-season games remaining, while Hegins, which won the first meeting between the teams 6-5 on June 9, had five.

Hegins had a chance to make a statement right from the start.

Jordan Masser and Hunter Herb were issued back-to-back, one-out walks, while Chase Schaeffer reached on a fielder's choice. Herb was safe at second on the play when the throw from the second baseman to the shortstop covering the bag was dropped.

But Brown, making his third pitching appearance of the season, worked out of the mess. He got No. 5 hitter Kevin Bixler to fly out to shallow left and Billy Wagner to ground out to second to end the inning.

In the bottom of the first, Dylan Stephen singled and Evan Sukeena reached on a fielder's choice. They both moved up 90 feet on stolen bases and scored on back-to-back singles by DiNicola and Pedron.

"We could have been down and it would have changed the whole complexion of that thing," Branch manager Jim Kramer said. "We would have been playing from behind. We were aggressive. We stole a base or two and got a timely hit."

Brown, who will be a junior at Minersville in the fall, did the rest.

He also got into trouble in the second but ended up stranding two runners. Brown finished the game striking out four and walking three. The only hit he allowed was a two-out single to Bixler in the third.

Brown labored early, throwing 47 pitches over the first two innings. He needed 57 over the final five, retiring 15 of the final 17 hitters he faced.

Kramer said it was just the second complete game from a Branch starter all season. He was expecting Brown to go five innings at the most.

"He didn't walk many and that was the difference," Kramer said. "We played some defense. He competed."

Brown threw 66 pitches for strikes, mixing in his fastball and curveball. But his best pitch Friday might have been his changeup.

"I think he got people out in front on his changeup," Kramer said. "He didn't like it but we were forcing him to throw it because he felt uncomfortable with it. But we were forcing him because we said these kids can hit fastballs. He had to throw something to keep them off balance."

Hegins' Ryan Schaffer turned in a solid start, too. He also pitched a complete game, allowing five hits, striking out six and walking one. Only one of the three runs Schaffer allowed was earned.

"He kept us in the game," Hegins manager Shawn Masser said. "He has good command of his fastball and curve, which is what you need and he can throw both for a strike whenever he wants. But if you don't have any hits, you are not going to score any runs."

DiNicola and Pedron, Branch's No. 4 and 5 hitters, did most of the damage at the plate, combining to go 4-for-6 with three runs batted in.

Stephen led off the bottom of the first with an opposite-field single to left. Sukeena then reached on a fielder's choice when the throw from the shortstop to the second pulled the second baseman off the bag.

Stephen and Sukeena both moved up on stolen bases after Cody Bettinger struck out.

DiNicola drove in Stephen and Pedron singled home Sukeena, making it 2-0.

Branch added an unearned run in the third when DiNicola singled with two outs and ended up at third when the ball got past the center fielder. Pedron followed with a double down the left-field line, bringing home DiNicola.

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