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By DAVID B. CORBIN Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
St. Anne found the key just in time to lock the gate and defeat St. Peter, 12-11, in the St. Bartholomews Oldtimers Softball League playoffs at Jerseyland Field in Scotch Plains on August 25.
After letting a huge 9-3 lead slip out of its grasp when St. Peter, sponsored by Tonys Pharmacy in Scotch Plains, jarred St. Anne and rallied for eight runs in the bottom of the fifth to burst the gates wide open, St. Anne, sponsored by Sideline Sports in Scotch Plains, had to scramble for the key to secure control of passage to the next round of the playoffs.
The initial possession of the key was taken in the first inning by St. Peter. Steve Pirella drew a leadoff walk, Jerry Rites correctly ripped a single to right and Bill Mirto hit into a fielders choice to drive in Pirella.
Dave Rothenberg slapped a single to right and moved to second on the throw to third, then Howard Jones kept up the scoring by cracking an RBI single to left. Jim Steger drove in the third run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to right field.
St. Anne tied the score at 3-3 in the top of the second to knock the key out of St. Peters hands, sending it sailing to neutral territory. Joe McAvoy lashed a single to left, Floyd Roberts lined a single up-the-middle and Al Antoine bounced a single off the glove of the third baseman to load the bases.
After Dale Cox flied out to right, Wally Bradshaw brought McAvoy home on a fielders choice, Joe Dolan looped an RBI single to right, then Mike Hayeck arced a single to left to drive in the third run.
St. Anne pitcher Frank Chupko held St. Peter scoreless in the second and St. Anne came to bat in the top of the third and found the key. Chuck Krajcsik poked a single, Frank Pepe banged a single to center, Dom Valenzano thumped an RBI single to center and Randy Grizzard placed a single to right to bring home Pepe and to give St. Anne a 5-3 lead.
St. Anne added four more runs in the top of the fifth to take a 9-3 lead. Dolan walked, Hayeck and Frank Chupko both reached on errors, then Krajcsik looped a single to right which brought home Dolan and Hayeck. Pepe sacrificed to center to drive in Chupko and Pete DeChristofaro thrashed a single to left to bring in the fourth run.
The key to the gate appeared to be firmly in the grasp of St. Anne as St. Peter came to bat in the bottom of the fifth. Suddenly, like lightning, St. Peter struck. Bill Canata hopped a single to left, Don Rowbotham sliced a single to right and Joe Judge walked to load the bases. Emmett OHara reached safely as Canata came in to score, then Jeff Haines sacrificed to left to bring home Rowbotham.
Pete Vanderhayden walked, Tom Faitoute came to the plate and reached on a fielders choice as Judge was forced out at home, Bob Johnson got an easy RBI when he walked with the bases loaded, then Pirella tapped a single to left to drive in the fifth run of the inning.
Still, more lightning was to come. Rites righteously bolted a two-RBI single to right and Mirto boomed a single to left to drive in the eighth run of the inning, giving St. Peter an 11-9 lead and allowing them to regain the key to the gate.
With only two innings remaining, the struggle for possession of the key got intense. Grizzard lobbed a single to left, McAvoy put some right-hand English on the ball as he spun a single to left field, Roberts drove in Grizzard with a single to left, then Antoine tied the score when he grounded into a fielders choice. Matters could have been worse but Rites, the St. Peter center fielder, made two brilliant catches to close out the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Canata and Rowbotham of St. Peter both singled to pose a key threat; however, the St. Anne third baseman Valenzano muffled the threat by catching a pop-up for the third out.
Hayeck led off the top of the seventh for St. Anne with a single which bounced off third base. Chupko arced a single to left, then Krajcsik hit into a fielders choice as Hayeck steamed home for the go-ahead run.
The eyes of St. Peter dimmed in the bottom of the seventh as only one runner reached base safely and was left stranded when Faitoute fatefully bounced the ball back to the pitcher who, in turn, tossed it to first for the final out.
St. Anne 032 042 1 12
St. Peter 300 080 0 11