Article By: CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press
For a team that lost its last six regular season games and hung on to get a spot in the EPC playoffs and districts, Emmaus is doing some damage to other team’s chances in the postseason. First came an upset of Parkland in the EPC playoffs, then chipping apart Northampton’s Konkrete Kids in the first round of districts. On Sunday, Emmaus beat Easton for a trip to the District 11 Class 6A finals and a spot in the PIAA playoffs. Not bad for a team seeded eighth in the district.
“We’re starting to check off some goals,” said Hornet head coach Jeremy Haas after Sunday’s win. “We wanted to get to the EPC playoffs and we did that, we wanted to get to the semis and we did that. Now, you’re in districts and you win your first round, now we get qualified for states.”
Sophomore pitcher Braden Waller made it look easy, throwing a no-hitter against Easton to put Emmaus into the finals against second-seeded Liberty. Waller was perfect through four and two-thirds innings until he walked Keegan Stem with two outs in the fifth.
With Stem on first, Waller made an errant pick-off throw that put Stem on second and another error put runners on first and third, but Waller calmly struck out pinch-hitter Jordan Spevak for the final out of the inning.
While errors made things challenging for Waller in the fifth, he was helped by a diving catch in center field by Matthew Madigan in the fourth. With one out, Dan Mazzeo lined a ball to center that started to sink fast in front of Madigan, who went into full dive mode and pulled the ball in just above the grass for the second out.
“Madigan saved my butt pretty good there with that Superman dive-out catch. I think that got us going,” said Waller.
Emmaus had runners on in each of the first two innings, but couldn’t score on Easton’s Ethan Reccek. In the third, Reccek hit two batters and Brandon Robinson and Tyler Ritter followed with singles, with Ritter’s driving in Wyatt Henseler. Justus Darville hit into a fielder’s choice to bring home Kellan Tulio and make it 2-0.
The Hornets went to work again in the fourth when reliever Dom Mayorca walked the first two batters to gain an early exit in favor of Connor Sikora, who got the next two hitters before Tulio lined a ball to right that brought home Waller, who led off the inning with a walk.
The Hornets put runners on base again in each of the next three innings, giving them runners in every inning of the game, but they couldn’t bring any of those runners home.
Waller hit Luke Storm with a pitch to start the seventh, but the next batter, Nick Yannuzzelli hit a sharp grounder to Keegan Nytz at second that Nytz trapped underneath him before flipping to Henseler at second to start a double-play. Another error put a runner on for Easton, but Waller got Stem to ground out to Tulio at first to start the celebration.
“That was beautiful,” said Waller. “I’m very proud of them for turning that one. I got a little nervous there for a second because I didn’t see the ball until I saw him flip it to second.”
While Haas was excited about the team’s postseason run, he turned the spotlight back on former coach Mike Mihalik, who still serves as an assistant, and brought Haas on board as one of his assistants early in his tenure as head coach.
“It’s something that when Mike brought me over here five years ago, it wasn’t always our goal to win titles and get to states,” said Haas. “We did it in different roles than I expected. I always expected he would be the head coach, but Mike started this thing and I’m just continuing it on for him.”
Emmaus plays Liberty for the District 11 Class 6A championship Wednesday at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown. Both teams are guaranteed a spot in the PIAA playoffs, which begin next week.
Waller is over his pitch count for the week and won’t be pitching in the final, but Haas is confident that the team has enough pitching to get through the game.