Gery’s walk-off hit beats Pates
Emmaus pitcher Matt Lanzone had to suffer through a strange and controversial first inning that resulted in three runs for Freedom, but he settled in well and kept his team in position for seventh-inning heroics and a 4-3 win over the Patriots in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference quarterfinals at Emmaus Community Park Monday night.
Liberty scored three times against Lanzone in the first inning. Uncharacteristically, Lanzone walked leadoff hitter Jonah Mateo on four pitches to open the game. Liberty then put runners on first and third with nobody out, and on a designed play, Jake Petro took off early for second and when Lanzone threw over, Mateo broke for home and was gunned down at the plate for the first out of the inning.
Tim Healey then hit a ground ball to short that Eric Cichocki threw to third in an attempt to get Petro, who was initially called out. Freedom coach Nick D’Amico argued the call, and the umpires conferred and changed the call to safe. Emmaus head coach Mike Mihalik then argued that the runner had left the base path to avoid the tag, but the safe call was upheld.
Evan Callahan then hit a long double to center field that plated two runs. Callahan moved to third on a play at the plate. Pates pitcher Alec Huertas followed with a sacrifice fly to left and Freedom quickly had a 3-0 lead.
“I think that was the first time in three years that [Lanzone] walked the leadoff batter on four pitches,” said Mihalik. “Then, the one bad pitch to Callahan and that really was it. He pitched a great game. We don’t win this game unless he keeps the zeros on the board for the rest of the way, so that was a huge performance.”
Huertas allowed two first-inning walks and hit a batter in the third inning, but didn’t give up a hit until the fourth, when Taden Gery reached on an infield single. Kellan Tulio singled to drive home Emmaus’ first run of the game.
Emmaus still trailed 3-1 going to the bottom of the seventh, but even after Huertas retired Zach Schrader to start the inning, Mihalik still felt good about the situation his team was facing.
“We had the top of the lineup coming up and I was confident with that, he said. “They’ve done that before, not just in the last inning, but with two outs. The top of the order is good enough where they can put things together pretty quickly and they did that again tonight.”
Huertas was approaching his 100-pitch limit, and a long at-bat by Evan Marushak pushed him to 104 pitches and ended his outing. Marushak’s at-bat ended with a double down the first baseline.
“There were times today when we were trying to work the pitch count and get really good pitches to hit,” said Mihalik. “Toward the end there, Evan just put together a really good at-bat. The strategy with Evan up there wasn’t to just keep working the count to get him to 100 pitches, Evan just put together a great at-bat.”
David Smith came on to pitch and gave up a single to Jake Hahn that plated Marushak, and then Cichocki doubled to tie the game. Wyatt Henseler was hit by a pitch and Gery stepped to the plate and lifted a long fly ball to left-center field that sailed over two outfielders for a walk-off double, scoring Cichocki with the winning run.
“It felt a little better, knowing that we had tied it,” said Gery of his game-winning at-bat. “Even if I had flown out, we would have gotten the guy to third and then it would have been up to Todd [Moxey] to bring him in. It did make me feel a little better that we had at least already tied it, but it all worked out.”
Emmaus and Parkland will now meet in the semifinals, the third meeting of the two rivals this season. Emmaus has won both of the previous games, with the last meeting finishing in a 1-0 Hornets win in 16 innings. Lanzone matched up against Michael Jenkins in both of the previous games, but neither will be eligible to pitch in Wednesday’s game.
“It will be different to see someone else starting for them, instead of Jenkins,” said Mihalik. “It works out well, because they’re going to show us someone new and we’re going to do the same to them.”