SOMERSET — While the Somerset Businessmen (23-0) haven't cruised through the Cambria County American Legion season on auto pilot, they received a much-needed scare in the first round of the playoffs Wednesday.
The top-seeded Post 181 team fell behind 1-0 and 3-1 to a red-hot No. 8-seeded Richland team that went 7-2 down the stretch to get to the playoffs. The Businessmen rallied with two out in the bottom of the sixth inning to win 5-3.
Somerset sent the 5-6-7 batters to the plate in the bottom of the sixth. Jacob Nickelson (2-for-2) singled and was forced out on Alex Dirienzo's grounder. Dirienzo stole second before Pat Blough struck out. Michael Flyte, who had hit two long fly outs to center in his previous at-bats, then smashed an RBI triple to the deepest part of the ballpark.
Manager Bob Hay pulled designated hitter Michael Van Lenten for starting pitcher Brent Barron. The call paid off in the form of a two-run home run over the opposite field off starter Brandon Fesko. Drew Hemminger followed with an RBI single to left to set the final score.
"He said if the nine stick gets up in the order and there are guys on I want you hitting," Barron said of the decision to let him bat for himself. "It was low and outside and I got lucky enough to hit it over the right-field fence.
"We DH for the pitcher every game because we have such a deep lineup that anyone can hit. He had confidence in me to go out there and hit and it paid off."
Hay added, "I didn't want to have my starter getting me three outs from the mound and then go hit and run around the bases.
"Brent is usually in the middle of our order when playing the field, so he can hit. It was a nice spot to have him in — like a pinch hitter in that spot with guys on. We will probably do the same thing tomorrow with Drew if we get in a spot."
The 56ers grabbed a 1-0 advantage in the second inning when Bobby Varner doubled home a runner.
The Businessmen tied the game in the third when Nickelson's blooper fell into shallow center allowing Ross Dirienzo (2-for-3) to score after he had singled and stole second.