ALTOONA - No one has been more successful in the District 6 baseball playoffs over the years than Nick Imperioli's Mount Union Trojans.
Imperioli has been the Trojans' coach for 40 years and he owns 715 wins, 17 District 6 titles and three PIAA state titles in that illustrious career.
However, the Trojans' hopes for an 18th district crown went down the tubes Wednesday when Blairsville pushed over a run in the bottom of the sixth inning and held on for a 3-2 victory and its first-ever District 6 Class AA championship at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Despite the loss, Mount Union (17-5) advances to the state playoffs starting Monday. The Trojans will face District 5 champion Bedford, a 5-3 winner over Everett. The game will be played in District 5 at a site and time to be determined.
"Tough one,'' a disappointed Imperioli said after the difficult loss.
A seventh-inning balk helped Blairsville beat Central in a semifinal game last week and a balk led to the Bobcats' winning run Wednesday.
Mount Union pitcher Cole Boozel retired the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth before Cameron Livingston beat out a single behind the second base bag. Boozel then appeared to lose his balance and stepped off the mound without throwing the ball, which resulted in a balk. John DiStefano followed with a ringing single to left, scoring Livingston with what proved to be the winning run.
"I asked (Boozel) what happened,'' Imperioli said. "He said he was looking down and thought he heard someone yelling 'time.' When you're in a big ballpark like this, with this many people, that shouldn't effect you.
"The way I figured all their runs were unearned,'' Imperioli continued. "We're not a good offensive team. We've won our games by shutting out people or keeping the runs down. We should have been able to win ... we had to be able to win with the two runs.
"We don't have much offense,'' he said. "We executed a couple bunts but couldn't get the guys up (to third). It cost us in the sixth inning because if that bunt had been successful we would have scored because the next guy hit a fly ball.''
Besides the balk, Imperioli also pointed to a couple of missed plays by Trojan infielders that were costly.
"We didn't have good play behind pretty effective pitching,'' he said. "I thought our pitcher did a pretty good job. We just didn't complement him with the plays we should have made.
"It's too bad.''
Klayton Heffner singled, moved up on Boomer Brown's walk and scored on Cory Kylor's single in the first inning. Singles by Thad Wakefield, Hunter Atherton, Heffner and Brown's sacrifice fly gave the Trojans a 2-0 lead in the second, but they were held hitless the last five innings by Blairsville's Reed Ratkus.
"He did a nice job,'' Imperioli said of Ratkus. "We hit the ball, but we weren't effective. After the first couple innings, we were pretty weak offensively.''
Blairsville tied it in the third on two hits, a walk and an error and then got the game-winner in the sixth.
"I can't even begin to find the words what this means,'' Blairsville coach Mark Zerfoss said of the Bobcats' first title. "We've stressed about making memories all year and this certainly was one.''