|PIAA BASEBALL: SAYRE TOPS GREENWOOD 5-2 IN OPENING ROUND OF CLASS A TOURNEY FOR FIRST STATE PLAYOFF WIN (24 PHOTOS) (2018-06-04)
By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
NEWPORT — Junior Jon Cron, freshmen Jake Burgess and Zach Moore, and sophomore Quinn Hanafin delivered key hits, and senior Nate Sweet pitched six strong innings to lead Sayre to its first-ever state playoff win, a 5-2 decision over Greenwood here Monday evening in the opening round of the PIAA Class A baseball playoffs.
This is the Redskins fifth trip to the PIAA playoffs in 11 years, but their first win.
“I’m excited for the kids,” said Sayre coach Jamie VanDuzer. “They’ve been on quite a roller-coaster this year.
“We’re just peaking at the right time,” he added. “We’re pitching, we’re playing defense, and we’re getting some timely hits.”
“It feels amazing to help the seniors get this moment, and as a freshman it’s great to be able to share in it,” said Moore.
The Redskin veterans believe there is more work to be done.
“It feels good, but we have a couple more games we have to win first before we can think too much about this,” said Quinn Hanafin. “It’s a good start.”
“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to get the District title,” said senior Jordan Rockwell. “Our next goal was to get a state (playoff) win, and our final goal was to win States.
“We have two out of three, but there’s still one more page left,” added Rockwell.
VanDuzer said the win was a team effort.
“The 7-8-9 hitters in our line-up each had an RBI tonight, and that’s huge.
“Anytime the bottom of our order contributes with as powerful as the top of our line-up can be at times, it makes us very dangerous,” noted VanDuzer.
Rockwell tipped his cap to the Burgess and Moore.
“The freshmen at the bottom of the order were able to get some big hits, and turn the line-up over to the top. They were our spark plug tonight.
“When you’re a senior you’re very proud of that, it was good to see,” added Rockwell.
After Greenwood’s Aaron Bollinger retired Sayre in order in the top of the first inning, Aaron Morder led off the home half of the first with a ringing double deep into the spacious center field on the Newport High School field.
After a one-out error moved Morder to third and left runners on first and third, Quinn Hanafin made a nifty play on an infield chopper and fired home to Rockwell, who tagged Morder out at the plate.
Sweet couldn’t quite pitch his way out of the jam, however, as Bryce Dalpiaz hit a hard ground-ball RBI single into right field to give Greenwood a 1-0 lead.
Sophomore Cam Wheeler made a nice play on the next batter, and junior first baseman Jon Cron scooped his throw out of the dirt to end the inning.
The Redskins answered immediately with four runs in the top of the second to take a 4-1 lead.
“I think we were a little nervous,” said Sweet. “Obviously, it’s a big game, but after the first inning we got into our usual routine of hitting the ball, and it really helped.
“Pitching with the lead is a lot easier,” added Sweet, who only allowed two hits over his final five innings on the mound.
“(Sweet) did a good job getting out of the first inning with just one run,” said VanDuzer.
“The four runs in the second inning definitely helped. I saw more life on his fastball after that, and I was able to take a breath,” he noted.
“I was a little concerned early on, but (Nate) and Jordan (Rockwell) have been our horses, you have to ride them until you can’t anymore,” added VanDuzer.
Rockwell said Sweet was on his game after the first inning.
““(Greenwood) is a pretty good hitting team,” he said. “Nate was hitting his spots, they were just putting it in play.
“They had a couple bloops hits, and there’s not much you can do about that, but he settled right in after that,” Rockwell noted.
“His fastball was definitely working. He had a little more pop on it today than normal, and I think that’s because of the stage we’re at,” he added. “When you’re a catcher and you see the enthusiasm Nate had today, you just let him work.”
Sweet led off the top of the second with a single up the middle, and Rockwell worked a walk, sending courtesy-runner Isaiah Firestine to second base.
With one out, Cron hit an RBI ground-ball single up the middle to tie the game at 1-1.
A hustling Moore then beat a throw at first base after Morder bobbled his grounder at shortstop to load the bases, and Burgess followed with an RBI single to right field to give the Redskins a 2-1 lead.
With two outs, Quinn Hanafin, who was hobbled a bit after fouling a ball of the top of his foot in the first inning, slammed a two-run single into the left-center field to cap the rally and extend Sayre’s advantage to 4-1.
“I was up in the count, so I was looking for something on the inner-half, something I could drive hard … hit it on a line for a base hit,” said Quinn Hanafin.
“I think it would have been a double, but coming out of the box (my foot) was hurting … I wasn’t trying to push it too hard,” he added.
Hanafin ripped a one-out double in the fifth inning, but was stranded at second base.
Rockwell singled to lead off the top of the sixth, and stole second base moments before Cron’s line drive to center field was flagged down for the second out.
On the eighth pitch of his at-bat, Moore ripped an RBI single through the hole at shortstop to score Rockwell and make it 5-1.
“I was really confident, and I was looking for fastballs because I’m hitting down in the order,” said Moore. “I got one and I hit it.
“As a freshman, it’s great to get a start and be able to contribute to the win,” he added.
Sweet was pulled after six innings and just 71 pitches, and Rockwell, who threw a four-hitter in the District 4 championship game, relieved and was greeted by two singles, sandwiched around a nice over-the-hear running catch by Cron in foul territory down the first-base line.
After a walk to Avery Morder loaded the bases, Rockwell worked out of the jam with a groundout to second base that plated a run, and a strikeout of Aaron Morder to end the game.
“Yeah, I got a little nervous when (Greenwood) brought the tying run to the plate in the (bottom of the) seventh inning, especially with their lead-off hitter, who hit a long double in the first inning, coming to the plate,” said VanDuzer, “But Jordan got the big outs.”
Sweet allowed an unearned run on four hits in six innings to earn the win. He struck out three and walked none. Rockwell allowed one run on two hits, while striking out one and walking one in one inning of relief.
Quinn Hanafin doubled and singled, and had two RBI to lead Sayre at the plate, while Rockwell singled and scored two runs, and Cron and Moore each singled, scored one run, and drove in a run.
Burgess singled and drove in a run, while Connor Hanafin and Sweet each added a single, and Firestine scored a run.
Bollinger and Dalpiaz each had two hits to pace Greenwood’s six-hit attack.
Bollinger allowed four runs — one earned — on five hits, while striking out six and walking one in 4 1/3 innings. Aaron Morder allowed one run on three hits, while striking out two and walking one in 2 2/3 innings of relief.
Sayre will now face District 1 champion Faith Christian Academy, which beat District 12 champ Girard Academy of Music 8-2, on Thursday at a site and time to be determined.
IN PHOTO 1: Sayre's Nate Sweet. ... PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
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