Easton tops EHS in EPC baseball playoff
The Hornets left Scranton earlier and unhappier than they hoped to last Friday. Now Emmaus needs to regroup and be ready to play its best baseball when it matters most.
After falling in Friday’s league semifinal, 7-1 to Easton, Emmaus hosts Pocono Mountain East on Wednesday in the quarterfinal round of the District 11 Class 3A playoffs, where it must win two games to reach the championship and earn a berth in the state playoffs.
“I think they’ll be all right because now there is no choice,” said Hornet head coach Mike Mihalik. “You win, you keep going. You lose, you go home.
“They’re going to get the weekend off to rest up and recharge physically and mentally because we’ve got one real big I push to make yet. We all know what we’re chasing. We’ll come back and have a good Monday and Tuesday and we’ll battle our tails off on Wednesday and then hopefully we win that game and keep the season going.”
Emmaus (16-5) reached the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference playoffs and beat Liberty 10-0 in a semifinal game on May 12. But after a week of rain pushed back the semifinal games, the Hornets traveled to the University of Scranton last Friday morning to face top-seeded Easton. The winner would have to stay for the afternoon title game against Parkland, which beat Stroudsburg in the first semifinal.
The No. 4 seed Hornets struck out 14 times against the Rovers. They had two early opportunities to take a lead but both times came up short.
In the first inning, Emmaus put runners on first and third with one out and didn’t score. In the third inning, a one-out triple from Evan Marushak (3-for-4) and a single from Wyatt Henseler (2-for-3) made it 1-0. But Easton turned a double play to get out of the inning.
“Had we put a couple across there that would have changed some momentum early on,” Mihalik said. “The first inning I liked the way we came out and then afterward it just wasn’t there.”
Easton erased the deficit with a pair of runs in the second inning on three hits and a walk. Hornet starter Adam LeMaster struck out two straight batters to get out of the inning without more damage. LeMaster came out of the game an inning later with his pitch count running to its limit of 100.
“I thought Adam threw well,” said Mihalik. “He battled. One thing they did nice offensively is they really challenged Adam. They were fouling a lot of balls off. They ran his pitch count up pretty high pretty quickly.”
The Rovers stretched their lead in the fifth inning after a pair of no-out walks led to three runs and a 5-1 lead. They loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning before Nick Yannuzzelli’s two-run single capped the scoring at 7-1.
“Easton pitched better. They hit better. They fielded better and some of their coaching decisions were better,” said Mihalik. “We struck out 14 times today. When you look at the first time we played Easton our offense looked a lot like that. We did the same exact thing all over again. It seems like today we kind of got away from what we’ve been doing lately.”
The Hornets had some adversity to contend with Friday morning at Scranton’s brand-new facility. While warming up before the game, First Team All-EPC catcher Ian Kauffman injured his shoulder and was taken to the hospital. The team knew his diagnosis before the game and his replacement, junior Shane Martrich, played well. But it’s hard to assess how Kauffman’s absence impacted the team.
“Shane did a great job back there so that wasn’t an issue, but from a morale standpoint I don’t know,” said Mihalik. “We adjusted the line up, which was tricky given who we might need out in the field a little bit later.”
Kauffman’s collarbone injury is expected to keep the junior out the remainder of the postseason.
“It’s a shame because he’s had a great season,” said Mihalik.
Despite Friday’s adversity, the fourth-year head coach expects his team to be ready for Wednesday’s game and whatever comes after it.
“This team has bounced back,” Mihalik said. “They’ve shown resiliency. I think I know the pulse of this team and I think well be good for Wednesday.”
If the Hornets, which earned the No. 3 seed, get past the Cardinals, they’ll likely have a rematch against Easton, the No. 2 seed in districts. The Rovers have a quarterfinal match up with the winner of a play-in game between Freedom and Nazareth. Semifinals are scheduled for Monday, May 28.