FREDERICKSBURG — With a pair of good offensive baseball teams opposing each other, you wouldn’t expect an RBI single by Ryan Farrow in the top of the first inning for Greencastle-Antrim to be the game-winning hit.
But that’s exactly how a PIAA Class 5A baseball quarterfinal game between the Blue Devils and Pocono Mountain East ended up — a 1-0 victory by Greencastle at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg on Thursday evening.
The Blue Devils (19-5) will now face District 1 champion Strath Haven (21-4) in a semifinal game on Monday, with site and time TBD. Strath Haven took out Selinsgrove 14-3 in the quarterfinals.
“We are playing as one unit, playing for each other, and I’m very proud of them,” G-A coach Eric Shaner said.
In the top of the first, facing Cardinals’ ace Gavin Sopko, No. 2 hitter Carter Reid singled and swiped second base. He raced home on a base hit to right field by Farrow.
And that was it for scoring. But not for excitement.
“We knew we’d have tough sledding against their pitcher,” Shaner said. “And they average seven and half runs a game. But I knew Jace (Szaflarski) would be big for us and he was. He’s a tough kid and he got some big outs for us.”
Szaflarski started and worked through six tough innings, stranding 10 Pocono Mountain East runners, including seven in scoring position. The Cardinals left the bases loaded in the first inning and they had runners on second and third in both the second and fifth innings and two on in the sixth.
Shaner said, “The ball wasn’t carrying at all. (G-A’s Briggs) Remenick crushed one in the seventh that would have been out on almost any other night and they caught it on the warning track. And we benefitted a couple of times, too. They had some unproductive outs on fly balls with runners on that didn’t move their runners up that helped us out.”
Szaflarski was at the end of his pitch count nearing the end of the sixth when Shaner came out and told him he had to get one more batter. He did.
Then Shaner turned to Adam Horst to pitch the seventh inning. He fell behind to Adam Horvath, and gave up a leadoff single. The Cardinals tried to bunt Horvath over, but it was popped up and the third baseman, Farrow, caught the ball.
Horvath got to second base on a steal, then Evan Schmelz hit a grounder to Farrow at third. He got the out at first as Horvath moved to third, now with two outs. That brought up Nate Meinweiser and Horst blew him away on a three-pitch strikeout.
“They had a huge cheering section behind home plate and Adam was staring down the barrel,” Shaner said. “But he got three strikes on a curve, fastball and fastball. That last one was an adrenalin pitch — he just beat the kid to the spot.”
The Blue Devils made Sopko sweat in the top of the sixth when they loaded the bases with two outs on an error and walks to Darren Kline and Carter McCauley. Logan Shifflett then torched a pitch down the leftfield line, but it fell about a foot and a half into foul territory.
“I was thinking we’d score two or three runs on that one,” Shaner said. “I thought it would be fair when he hit it, but it just hooked a little. That just made the end result a little cooler … at least it was after it was over.”
NOTES: Greencastle managed just 4 hits … Szaflarski (6-4) allowed 6 hits, walked 5 and hit a batter, and he fanned 2 batters … The last time the Blue Devils reached the state semifinals was 2000, when they ended up falling to Huntingdon in the championship game.