ECC bound for state finals with 1-0 win over Bishop McCort
By Rich Rhoades
PUNXSUTAWNEY — For Brandon Schlimm and the Elk County Crusaders, it’s time to make travel plans to Penn State University Friday afternoon.
Main Campus, that is. Time: 3:30 p.m. Opponent: Devon Prep.
On the strength of the senior right-hander’s four-hitter and 11 strikeouts, the now 26-0 Crusaders punched their ticket to the PIAA Class A Championship game at Medlar Field with a 1-0 win over District 6 champion Bishop McCort.
“I knew we had potential, but I didn’t know we’d run the string,” Crusaders head coach Father Eric Vogt said. “It’s tough to do that in any sport. We’re going to give it heck and go at (Devon Prep).”
Schlimm also helped produce the game’s only run in the fourth inning when his two-out triple got things going, setting up Josh Zelinski’s run-scoring single that drove in courtesy runner Mitchell Struble.
That was all Schlimm needed to squeeze out his 119-pitch shutout despite having runners on base in all but one inning. The Crimson Crushers (19-8) stranded eight runners with three of them at third base, including one in the seventh inning when Schlimm whiffed mound opponent Brad Coleman to end the game.
“That was our goal,” Schlimm said of reaching the state finals. “We had a great team last year and had a tough loss in the first round. To come this year and play as well as we have is great.”
Schlimm would be available to pitch Friday.
“We’ll see how it feels,” said Schlimm, who improved to 11-0 and lowered his earned run average to 0.98 with 125 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings. “I don’t think I’ll be able to go another seven, but hopefully be able to throw a few innings.”
Crusaders head coach Father Eric Vogt saw his ace pitcher rise to the occasion.
“The more he pitches the stronger he gets,” Vogt said. “His fastball got a little better as he went on and got into it. When you’re that thin and don’t have a lot of muscle, sometimes your body just has to get into a rhythm and he just did it.”
McCort’s Coleman was the hard-luck loser on the mound, tossing a six-hitter with seven strikeouts and just one walk. He threw 82 pitches, 60 of them for strikes. He was making his sixth straight postseason start, although he hadn’t finished all of those starts.
Going into the bottom of the fourth, the Crusaders had two hits — a first-inning Brad Dippold single and a third-inning bunt single by Vincent Jacob — with two other runners reaching on infield errors. And the fourth started harmless enough with two quick flyouts by Dan Singer and Jonathan Dippold.
But Schlimm ripped a drive into right-center where McCort centerfielder Nemo Trexler made what appeared to be an outstanding diving catch. However, the ball popped out of his glove when he hit the ground and Schlimm was able to reach third with a triple.
“I wasn’t much of a hitter last year at all, but this year, I found my stick,” said Schlimm, who went into the game batting .396.
After Struble replaced Schlimm as a courtesy runner, the left-handed Zelinski sliced a liner to left to score Schlimm.
The Crusaders got a second single from Dippold in the fifth inning, but stranded him at second and after Schlimm singled in the sixth for his second hit, courtesy runner Struble was stranded at second.
Meanwhile, McCort couldn’t get a runner to home plate, with its best chances coming in the first and third innings.
In the first, Schlimm struggled throwing strikes and walked two of the first three batters. With runners at first and third, the Crushers tried a delayed double steal of home, but the Crusaders sniffed it out and perfectly executed their defense in nailing Trexler at the plate.
After stranding runners at second and third in the second inning, McCort had runners on first and second with two outs in the third with No. 5 hitter Ethan Neiderhiser at the plate. Following a Neiderhiser foul ball, Schlimm had the ball on the mound and turned to fire the ball to second to try to get courtesy runner Zef Leech. The ball went into center field and Leech went around to score when centerfielder Jacob misplayed the overthrow.
But, from the outset, the home plate umpire was waving the play dead because he hadn’t made the ball live, which is usually indicated by pointing to the pitcher after he gets the ball.
“I never saw his arm go down,” Vogt said. “He never pointed to the pitcher to put the ball in play, so he made the right call. … That was big.”
Bishop McCort head coach Chris Pfeil wasn’t as agreeable with the call.
“We have to live with the call, but that’s a 10-12 second sequence for the pitcher to take a sign, come set, check the runner back and make a pickoff move,” Pfeil said. “He says he didn’t put the ball back in play. We have to live with that, but I’m not sure why the ball would not be in play. The unfortunate thing about that is that the centerfielder misplayed the ball and we’re probably standing there with a 1-0 lead and a guy on third.
“It’s disappointing, but you have to overcome calls. That’s a big call, but you have to overcome that. We had opportunities in six innings to get a hit to change the complexion of the game. Sometimes, the calls don’t go in your favor and that’s certainly a big one.”
In the fifth with a runner at second and one out, No. 3 hitter Nathan Neiderhiser smoked a hard shot at second baseman Dippold, who knocked the ball down and got the out. With a runner at third and two outs, Schlimm struck out cleanup hitter Alex Sobecky to end the inning.
The final threat from McCort came in the seventh when No. 9 hitter Cameron Rock doubled with one out and advanced to third on Trexler’s flyout to right field. But Schlimm ended it all with a strikeout of Coleman.
“It was frustrating,” Pfeil said of his team’s missed scoring chances. “We just needed to get one more ball in play. We had num opportunities and there’s not a lot you can do. You have to give the kid credit. He made the pitches. They worked us away and we weren’t able to get a bat on it. We tried to talk to the guys, hoping somebody could poke one the other way and get one through.”
Meanwhile, the Crusaders are happy with their one run that got them one win closer to a state title.
“We’re looking forward to Friday. My kids are really excited,” Vogt said.
Scores from games involving District 9 teams.
Last updated 6:45 p.m. 6/9/14.
Elk County Catholic 1, Bishop McCort 0
Souderton 2, DuBois 0
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – A pair of District 9 teams are moving onto the semifinals of the PIAA baseball/softball playoffs after wins Thursday.
In Class A baseball, District 9 champion Elk County Catholic rode a five-run second inning to a 10-0, 5-inning win over WPIAL runner Carmichaels, while in Class AAAA softball DuBois advanced to the final four with a 9-5 win over WPIAL third-place Latrobe. Both games were played at Slippery Rock University.
In the baseball game, Ryan Childs and Brandon Schlimm combined to throw the 3-hit abbreviated shutout.
Childs started and went the first two innings allowing two hits and a walk while striking out five including the side in the first inning. Schlimm came in to the game in the third and worked three innings of one-hit ball. He hit a batter and struck out four.
Meanwhile, ECC’s offense rolled off 12 hits and took advantage of three Mighty Mikes errors.
After grabbing the 5-0 lead with the five-spot in the second, the Crusaders made it 8-0 with three more runs in the third before pushing two more across in the fifth to end the game in the Mercy Rule.
Ivan Wortman (2-for-3, a triple, 1 run scored), Dan Singer (2-for-3, a double, 2 runs scored) and Ross Brennen (2-for-3, 2 RBIs) led the ECC offense that saw ever starter get at least one hit.
Schlimm, who got the win, added a 1-for-2 performance at the plate with a pair of runs scored and two RBIs.
Brennen McMinn had two of Carmichaels’ three hits, while Ryan Zalar took the loss going 1 2/3 innings and allowing five runs, four earned, on four hits and striking out two. Billy Bowlen was tagged for five runs, four earned, on seven hits and a walk in 2 1/3 innings of work while striking out one.
The Crusaders will face District 6 champion Bishop McCort in the semifinals Monday at a site and time to be determined. The Crusaders handled District 9 runner-up Cranberry 7-2 in the quarterfinals Thursday. ECC is trying to make it two years in a row in the PIAA Class A title game for District 9. Last year, D9 runner-up Johnsonburg beat Canton for the PIAA title. The Rams beat Bishop McCort 7-6 in 11 innings in come-from-behind fashion in last year’s quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, in the softball game, DuBois looked like it was going to cruise past Latrobe building an 8-0 lead over the Wildcats after three innings.
But Latrobe cut the deficit to 8-4 with a four-run sixth before DuBois got a run back in the bottom of the sixth. Latrobe then scored once in the seventh before DuBois’ Rachael Henry shut the door.
The Beavers offense, meanwhile, smacked out 12 hits with Henry (2-for-4), Sierra McKee (2-for-4, 2 runs scored, 1 RBI), Raegan Hanna (2-for-4, 2 RBIs, 2 runs scored) and Abby LaBue (2-for-4, 1 run scored) each picking up two base knocks. Sierra McKee and Hanna each had doubles as did Rachelle Kruzelak, who was 1-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Cheyenne McKee had a triple and scored three runs while going 1-for-3 with an RBI.
DuBois will face District 12 third-place finisher Souderton in the semifinals Monday at a time and place to be determined. Souderton topped Central Mountain 6-5 in the quarterfinals Thursday.
NOTES – Two other District 9 baseball teams and a softball team were also in action Thursday with D9 champion DuBois falling 8-0 to WPIAL champion Seneca Valley in Class AAAA baseball, D9 champion Punxsutawney dropping a 9-2 decision to District 10 champion Erie Cathedral Prep in Class AAA baseball and D9 champion St. Marys falling 7-0 to Springfield Delco, the District 1 runner-up, in Class AAA softball.
By Rich Rhoades
MECHANICSBURG — Longtime District 9 basketball official Dave Wright of Clearfield was recently named the new PIAA Statewide Basketball Rules Interpreter. He replaces Joe Catanzaro of Delaware Water Gap, who retired after over 20 years in the position.
Wright serves as an extention of the PIAA offices for the sport and as the authority on high school basketball rules and mechanics for the PIAA and its officials.
“He has served as both a chapter and district interpreter and has also officiated multiple high level high school basketball games within the Commonwealth including the AAA boy’s championship game in 2007,” PIAA Executive Director Pat Gebhart said. “He is well respected by his fellow officials and is highly regarded statewide as a valued source of information for high school rules and their application.
“The PIAA looks forward to a continued excellent working relationship with Dave as he leads nearly 6,000 basketball officials statewide.”
Wright, 42, is a Clearfield native and Special Education teacher at his alma mater at Clearfield Area High School. He and his wife Jen have a 3-year-old son Jacob.
Wright began officiating in 1991 and eventually worked his way into the collegiate ranks where officiated for 13 years at the NCAA Division II and III levels. As a high school official, he’s worked state playoff games since 1996, including the state final appearance in 2007.
For the past 10 years, Wright has been the Clearfield-Centre Chapter Rules Interpreter. He’s held the District 9 position for the last two years.
“I’m very excited and honored to be in this position,” Wright said. “I’ve learned a lot from Joe. I have big shoes to fill because he was respected and highly regarded statewide. He’ll be sorely missed.”
The PIAA post is a part-time position, one that Wright knows will take a lot of work. Coordinating officials across the state is no small feat.
“The number one challenge is to make sure we implement the National Federation rules consistently statewide. That’s always the overriding goal,” said Wright. “And providing timely and accurate answers to rules questions from schools officials and chapters is certainly a big focus.”
He’s looking forward to helping improve the quality of officiating as well as recruiting more officials.
“This is a whole new challenge, but it marries both of my worlds and passions — teaching and officiating” Wright said.
Scores from games involving District 9 teams.
Last updated 7:51 p.m. 6/5/14.
Seneca Valley 8, DuBois 0
Erie Cathedral Prep 9, Punxsutawney 2
Elk County Catholic 10, Carmichaels 0, 5 innings
Bishop McCort 7, Cranberry 2
DuBois 9, Latrobe 5
Springfield-Delco 7, St. Marys 0
Scores from games involving District 9 teams.
Last updated: 8:10 p.m. 6/2/14
Cranberry 2, California 1
Elk County Catholic 3, Sewickley Academy 2
Northwestern 7, Karns City 6
Punxsutawney 3, West Allegheny 2
DuBois 10, Baldwin 3
Claysburg-Kimmel 8, DuBois Central Catholic 2
Neshannock 11, Smethport 1, 5 innings
Philipsburg-Osceola 19, Moniteau 6, 5 innings
St. Marys 5, Mars 4
DuBois 5, Canon-McMillan 4