Many strange things happen in the game of baseball. Although the sacrifice bunt may usually lead to a run or two for a team, it was 2 sacrifice bunt plays that South Park failed to defend that opened the door and eventually led to the Dallas Mountaineers capturing their first state baseball championship with a 5-0 win over the Eagles at Medlar Field at Penn State University.
The game was scoreless after South Park pinch runner Brenden Gray was thrown out at the plate by Dallas leftfielder Drew Patton to end the top of the fourth inning. Gray was pinch running for Josh Wagner who led off the inning with his second single off of Mountaineers starter Nick Kocher. Mike Kentzel drew a walk before Kocher struck out Steve Moore and Mitchell Roell. Kevin Vaupel then singled to left, Patton’s throw was high but catcher Matt Mathers went high to grab it and had plenty of time to apply the tag to Gray at the plate. “Gray was coming all the way,” said South Park head coach Steve Bucci. “Their guy was settling in pretty good and I felt we could try a steal on right there with our nine guy coming up next.”
The Mountaineers capitalized on their defensive play by scoring two runs in a very unconventional way in the bottom half of the fourth. Eagles’ starter Kyle Thompson actually started the inning with a strikeout but reached first base via a wild pitch for Dallas. Kocher followed with his first of two hits to put runners at first and second. Mike Collins then bunted towards the left of the mound, Thompson fielded the ball and his throw to third beat Luksic to the bag but the ball glanced off Wagner’s glove and into short left field allowing Luksic to race home with the games first run. As if that sequence wasn’t strange enough, the Mountaineers would score again on a ball that barely made it past the pitchers mound. Courtesy runner Nick Kovalick, who reached third on the Wagner error, would score on a Justin McCrum infield single. McCrum, who finished the game 3-for-3, lined a ball towards Thompson. The senior got his glove on the ball but not enough to snag it cleanly and as it rolled towards shortstop, Dallas had a 2-0 lead.
Kocher, the junior starter who was the winning pitcher is the state semifinal victory for Dallas over East Pennsbury, made sure those were the only runs the Mountaineers needed as he threw 6 strong innings allowing 6 hits and striking out 9 South Park batters to finish the year with a (8-2) record.
Dallas would add 3 insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth with a d’j’ vu replay on a sacrifice bunt. McCrum led off with his third hit off of South Park pitcher Kevin Vaupel. Tanner Pantuso relieved Vaupel and walked Patton. Designated Hitter Charles Giacometti then dropped down a sacrifice bunt that was fielded by Pantuso, but the senior’s throw to Wagner at third, which would have been in time to retire McCrum, was wide and as the ball rolled into foul territory in short left field, McCrum came home to give Dallas a 3-0 lead. Kovalick, pinch running for Patton reached third while Giacometti took second on the play. After Pantuso struck out Christo Huntington, sophomore Darren Kerdesky made sure the Mountaineers would travel home with the gold medal as he lined a 2-run triple into right center field to make the score 5-0. Josh Lydon would pitch a 1-2-3 seventh inning as the Mountaineers celebrated their first state title.
“Those were plays that we had sniffed out,” Bucci said in referring to the 2 misplayed sacrifice bunts. “We had it perfectly scripted we just couldn’t complete the plays twice.” In addition to the two errors, South Park left runners on the corners in the top of the first. In addition to his three hits, McCrum made a difference with his glove as he kept Wagner’s ground ball in the infield which also held Adam Morris at third base for the Eagles. South Park, which stranded 8 runners in the game, left five of those in scoring position, in addition to having Gray thrown out at home plate. Despite the loss, coach Bucci was very proud of the year for South Park, which reached the state championship game for the first time in school history. “I’m very proud of them. The best team in the history of the school now, a lot of individual records that they set. You know, these guys are going to look back on this (season) later in life and say boy, did we put on a run that no one expected.”
The Eagles, who also took home the silver medal in the WPIAL championship game versus Blackhawk, end the season with a (23-4) record. Thompson, who will be heading to Clarion University to play baseball, struck out 5 in four innings to end the year at (4-3). The Mountaineers, who ended the year with a 13-game winning streak, head back to Northeastern Pennsylvania with a (15-6) record but more importantly with the schools first ever state baseball gold medal.
South Park Eagles: 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 = 0/6/2-8
Dallas Mountaineers: 0 – 0 – 0 – 2 – 0 – 3 – X = 5/6/1-7