PUNXSUTAWNEY – "The only disappointment tonight was that we didn't show our best," said ECC baseball coach Tom Zampogna following the Crusaders' 17-0, six-inning loss to the Bishop McCort Crushers on Monday afternoon in Punxsutawney. "Whether we lost or won isn't so much the disappointment-- it's the fact that I know we've got a better team than what we brought to the field tonight."
Zampogna's remarks summed up the Crusaders' efforts in the PIAA Class A Western Final match-up.
"We came with a different team today, I believe, than the team we had the past couple games," Zampogna added. "We started out not so good with a couple unearned runs, and it just seemed to snowball from there."
Sophomore Brandon Schlimm started on the mound for ECC, working five and one-third innings and giving up eight hits, walking one, and striking out four. Jack Herzing took over for two-thirds of an inning, giving up three hits and striking out one. Ben Cortina took over for the final inning, giving up six hits and striking out one.
Jesse Cooper started on the mound for the Crushers, working five innings and giving up four hits and walking one while striking out four. Justin Vardian worked the final inning in relief, striking out one.
"Bishop McCort, my hat is off to them. They played pretty much an error-free game today," Zampogna said.
All four of the Crusaders' hits were singles and were recorded by Brock McCullough, Dan Singer, Jack Herzing, and Shea Meyer.
Bishop McCort had 17 hits, led by Nathan Neiderhiser with a home run and a pair of singles. Jimmy Stenger had a triple and a pair of singles. Christian Leech had a triple and a single. Jesse Cooper had a double and a single, Justin Vardian had a double, Zach Varga had a trio of singles, Luke Williams had a pair of singles, and Nemo Trexler singled.
Bishop McCort took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning as Christian Leech reached base on an error with one out and went on to score on a triple by Jimmy Stenger. The Crusaders went down in order in the home half of the inning.
The Crushers left a runner stranded in the top of the second, and Elk Catholic left two on in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Jack Herzing singled and advanced to second as Joe McLaughlin walked. A fielder's choice by Ben Cortina took McLaughlin out at second and left the Crusaders with runners on the corners. They were unable to push a run through, though, as Vincent Jacob struck out looking to end the inning.
Bishop McCort padded their lead with two more runs in the top of the third. With one out, Leech singled and advanced to second as Neiderhiser reached base on an error. Stenger flied out to left for the second out of the inning. Luke Williams reached base on an error, scoring Leech. With Nemo Trexler up to bat, Neiderhiser made it home on a passed ball to give the Crushers a 3-0 lead. With two outs in the home half of the inning, Brock McCullough singled for ECC and advanced to second on a single by Dan Singer. Both were left on base as Ivan Wortman grounded out to the third baseman.
The Crushers added another run in the top of the fourth. Varga led off with a walk and courtesy runner Alex Sobecky later picked up second on a passed ball. With one out, Vardian doubled, advancing Sobecky to third. Cooper grounded out to the second baseman, scoring Sobecky, but Vardian was left stranded at second as Leech grounded out to the pitcher, leaving the Crushers with a 4-0 lead. The Crusaders went down in order in the bottom of the inning.
Neiderhiser hit a home run as the lead-off batter in the top of the fifth, and the Crushers kept the momentum going as Stenger and Williams recorded back-to-back singles. With one out, Varga singled, scoring both Stenger and Williams, and the Crusaders decided to make a pitching change with Herzing taking over on the mound. Zaine Tomkowski grounded out to the third baseman for the Crushers' second out, but then Vardian was hit by a pitch, advancing Sobecky, once again acting as courtesy runner for Varga, to second. Both scored on a double by Cooper. Leech struck out to end the inning with Bishop McCort up 9-0. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Shea Meyer singled but pinch runner Wes Brennen was left stranded at first.
In the top of the sixth, Herzing allowed back-to-back singles by Neiderhiser and Stenger before he was pulled in favor of Ben Cortina. Williams singled, scoring Neiderhiser. Stenger scored on a balk that advanced Tyler Mann, who was pinch running for Williams, to second. Trexler singled, scoring Mann, and Varga singled, advancing Trexler to third to put runners on the corners. Ethan Neiderhiser was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for the Crushers. A fielder's choice by Vardian saw Trexler thrown out at home by the pitcher, but then there was an error on the throw to first to try to make it a double play, and both Sobecky and Ethan Neiderhiser scored. A single by Nathan Neiderhiser scored Vardian for the final run for Bishop McCourt, giving them a 17-0 lead. Stenger struck out and Williams flied out to right field. The Crusaders again went down in order in the bottom of the inning, allowing Bishop McCort to advance to the PIAA Class-A state championship game with the 17-0 victory.
Bishop McCort will face District 4 champion Montgomery on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, Penn State University, for the PIAA Class A state championship. Montgomery defeated District 3 champion Lancaster County Christian 5-0 on Monday afternoon at Bucknell University in Lewisburg.
The Crusaders finished their season with an 18-8 record.
Monday afternoon's contest was the final game for seniors Pat Brennen and Bryan Haberberger.
"Pat and Bryan were our only two seniors, so this is their last game that they'll be playing dressed in a Crusader uniform," Zampogna said. "Bryan Haberberger, I can't say enough good things about. He was the ultimate team player. He helped out in so many different ways this year other than just his contributions on the field. Pat ended up being our senior leader at the end of the year, and he ended up being one of the better players that we had. I wish both of them the best of luck as they get beyond high school."
Senior Joe Childs also played on the team for part of the season.
Though he will only be losing a few members off of this year's squad, Zampogna remarked that "you never know what next year is going to bring."
"I've been coaching baseball a long time, and when you get these opportunities you have to try to take advantage of them," Zampogna said.
Bishop McCort 17
Jesse Cooper 5-0-2, Dan Formica 0-1-0, Christian Leech 5-3-2, Nathan Neiderhiser 5-3-3, Ron Gritzer 0-0-0, Jimmy Stenger 5-2-3, Luke Williams 5-1-2, Tyler Mann 0-1-0, Nemo Trexler 4-0-1, Zach Varga 3-0-3, Alex Sobecky 0-3-0, Zaine Tomkowski 3-0-0, Ethan Neiderhiser 0-1-0, Jeremy Adams 0-0-0, Justin Vardian 3-2-1. Totals 38-17-17.
Elk Catholic 0
Pat Brennen 3-0-0, Brock McCullough 3-0-1, Dan Singer 2-0-1, Jon Dippold 1-0-0, Ivan Wortman 3-0-0, Jack Herzing 3-0-1, Joe McLaughlin 1-0-0, Ben Cortina 2-0-0, Vincent Jacob 2-0-0, Brandon Schlimm 0-0-0, Shea Meyer 2-0-1, Wes Brennen 0-0-0. Totals 22-0-4.
Score by innings R
McCort 102 158 17
ECCHS 000 000 0