The baseball laid on the first-base line, resting against a clump of chalk that had been built up when the lines were drawn prior to Thursday's District 4 Class AA semifinal at Bowman Field.
Danville players standing around the ball were hoping and wishing for it to take that extra revolution and end up foul. It was the best the Ironmen could hope for with the perfectly placed suicide squeeze bunt from South Williamsport's Andrew Gipe. Pinch-runner Jeremy Scott was mere feet from the plate when Danville pitcher Zack Kozick dove for the baseball. He refrained from touching the ball in fair territory at the last second, knowing his only chance for the Ironmen to stave off the end to their season was if the ball took that one last revolution into foul territory.
It never did.
Gipe's suicide squeeze bunt with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning set off a wild celebration for South Williamsport as the Mounties won, 3-2, in 10 innings against the defending district champions. The Mounties secured a spot in today's District 4 title game against Loyalsock, as well as their first PIAA tournament berth since 2002.
It took Gipe two chances to get down the squeeze bunt. He did a great job on a 1-1 pitch that was out of the strike zone just to foul it off with Scott barreling down on home plate. Gipe, the Mounties' diminutive right fielder and nine-hole hitter, was surprised when South Williamsport head coach Shawn Finn went back to the squeeze play on the 1-2 pitch. But Finn had a hunch.
After freshman Anthony Caruso led off the 10th with a pinch-hit double, Finn had Zach Staver put down a two-strike sacrifice bunt to move Scott, the pinch-runner, to third. So when Gipe faced another two-strike count in a potential bunt situation, Finn went for it.
The bunt barely got 10 feet, but it couldn't have been in a better place. Catcher Matt Patterson had to stay at home to field a potential play at the plate. Neither Kozick nor a charging Scott Heeter from first base could get to the ball quick enough to make a play at the plate. And with just one out, Gipe's fate at first base didn't matter. So Kozick laid face first in foul territory hoping the ball would go foul. Heeter watched the baseball nuzzle up to the clump of chalk that made up the first-base line.
Finn nearly beat Scott to the plate and help his players celebrate.
"I was surprised we went back to it," Gipe said. "Usually you don't bunt with two strikes there, but I was able to get it down. (Kozick) gave me a strike and I put it on the first-base line."
"Gipe, I was giving him one pitch - and he's a right-field hitter - to try and drive it," Finn said. "Two strikes and I'm like it worked once, let's try it again with two strikes. And he got it down and it was perfect. There was nothing they could do."
The one-run 10th inning snapped a string of eight consecutive scoreless innings for the South Williamsport offense, all of which came against Bucknell-bound Danville starter Andrew Andreychik. The Mounties got to Andreychik early when Ryan Orgitano hit a towering two-run homer in the first inning.
"I don't think that ball's landed yet. I think that was the farthest ball I've ever seen hit," South pitcher Alex Carpenter said.
But that was all South Williamsport got off potentially the best pitcher in the district. The Mounties never got two runners on base at one time again after that first inning. Andreychik didn't walk a batter, gave up just two hits after the first innings and struck out 12.
Only the PIAA pitching limits got Andreychik out of the game after 9 innings, because he was only getting better as the innings went on. He threw just 49 pitches over his final five innings.
"He can probably beat any team in the state when he's on," Finn said. "He tried to beat us with his fastball early on and it wasn't working. Then he came with his off-speed stuff and really kept us off-balance."
Danville didn't fare much better against Mounties ace Alex Carpenter, picking up four scattered singles through the first five innings. It was a vast difference from last year's matchup between the two teams when the Ironmen scored 11 first-inning runs on their way to a 15-1 win. Carpenter started that game as well.
But he was brilliant for five innings last night. His lone hiccups came when Danville manufactured a run in the sixth inning with a single, balk and two ground balls. And back-to-back one-out walks in the seventh inning allowed Danville to tie the game with an RBI single from Kozick in the top of the seventh at 2-2.
"I felt like I had my good stuff, but I didn't have my control," Carpenter said. "The first three innings I was getting behind and it led to a couple walks and walks kill you."
The difference for the two teams was Cal Missingman replaced Carpenter and threw three brilliant, shutout innings. While Kozick, in his one inning of relief of Andreychik, surrendered the winning run.
"(Carpenter is an excellent pitcher, and their two kids - hat's off to them," Danville head coach Devin Knorr said. "They did a great job of keeping us off balance and keeping us off the board. You have to give credit where credit's due. South Williamsport is everything it's advertised, and they deserve to win."
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S. Williamsport200 000 000 1 - 3 8 2
Andrew Andreychik, Zack Kozick (10) and Matt Patterson. Alex Carpenter, Cal Missingman (8) and Kyle Eck. W-Missingman. L-Kozick.
Top Danville hitters: Andreychik 1-4; Kozick, 2-5, RBI; Patterson, 1-4; Mason Fausnaught, 1-4; Tyler Grubb, 1-5, RBI; Trevor Leitzel, 1-5; Scott Heeter, 1-4; Dylan Lupini, 1-3. Top South Williamsport hitters: Carpenter, 1-4; Ryan Orgitano, 1-4, home run, 2 RBIs, run; Kyle Eck, 2-4; Cal Missingman, 1-4; Anthony Caruso, 1-1, double; Andrew Gipe, 1-4, RBI.