ALTOONA -- West York began its opening game in the state Class AAA baseball tournament on a less-than-impressive note: three up, three down, all on strikeouts.
The swing-and-a-miss start on Monday afternoon, though, was hardly an omen.
The Bulldogs began hitting in their next turn at bat, and they ended up supplying their ace pitcher, Kaden Hepler, with a whole lot more runs than he needed.
West York combined Hepler's dominating pitching with eight hits, including a home run and a triple, to rout Hollidaysburg, 10-0. The umpires stopped the game, which was played at Peoples' Natural Gas Field, at the end of five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.
After a three-hour bus ride, the Bulldogs needed just 1 hour and 37 minutes to earn a spot in Thursday's state quarterfinals.
"I think the thing that was most impressive is that he (Hollidaysburg starting pitcher Dominic Viduya) strikes out the side, and then we made an adjustment in our dugout, and the kids make an adjustment at the plate and come out and score three runs," West York head coach Roger Czerwinski said.
Meanwhile Hepler worked the first four innings to gain the victory. The right-hander struck out six, walked one and allowed just one hit. Hollidaysburg's first batter of the game, Tanner Claar, was awarded a double when his high popup fell safely in the infield.
"That scared me a little bit when the first batter ended up on second base, but I regrouped," Hepler said. "(Catcher) Jesse (Bortner) and I had it going today. We were on the same page. If I was thinking, 'I wanted to throw a slider,' then he put down (the signal for) a slider."
Czerwinski said Hepler did a great job mixing up his pitches.
"He didn't rely solely on his fastball," he said. "He did a great job mixing up his pitches and hitting spots, especially with his slider."
Hepler's teammates, meanwhile, combined singles by Bortner, Cole Bixler and Chase James with Brock Gladfelter's successful suicide squeeze, an error and a fielder's choice to score their three runs in the second inning.
The following inning featured the offensive highlight of the day: Bortner's blast.
After Brandon Rauhauser singled, and Brandon Kinneman walked, Bortner jumped on a 2-0 pitch and drove the ball over the left-field fence just to the right of the 325-foot sign.
"As soon as I made contact, I was kind of jogging down the line because to me, it looked like it was going to go foul" Bortner said. "I came around first, and the umpire was waving his finger (to indicate a home run). I guess you get lucky every now and then."
Bortner enjoyed immensely playing in the minor league park.
"It's an awesome experience playing here (the stadium is the home of the Class AA Altoona Curve). You're kind of blown away when you first walk in. But it's baseball, and you have to go out and play."
Bortner and Gladfelter will get to know Altoona and the surrounding area very well in the upcoming years. Both will enroll next year at Mount Aloysius College, which is located in Cresson (19 miles from Altoona).
Before they focus on college, both players are hoping to play in three more high school games, beginning with a quarterfinal game against District 7 runner-up Belle Vernon on Thursday at a place and time to be determined. Belle Vernon beat District 9 champion Punxsutawney, 11-7, on Monday.
The Bulldogs got their bid for a state crown off to an outstanding start with their overall performance on Monday, which featured five stolen bases, along with eight hits and shutout pitching.
"We played great team ball today and got a win," Hepler said. "It feels great. Two years ago, I threw in the first round of states, and we ended up losing to Archbishop Wood. I didn't forget about that one."
Bortner was the only West York hitter with two hits. He collected a fourth RBI on a groundout in the fifth inning.
Gladfelter supplied three RBIs with a two-run single in the fifth frame and the suicide squeeze bunt in the second inning.
Brandon Kinneman opened the fifth inning for the Bulldogs with a triple to the left-center field gap.
Joe Prego pitched the fifth and final inning of the game for West York. Prego worked out of a second-and-third, no-outs jam with a groundout, an infield popup and another groundout.
-- Reach Dick Vanolinda at dvanolinda@york dispatch.com.