NEW ENTERPRISE - Northern Bedford's Eric Grace had only one hit in his last game, which was sort of a mini-slump for the cleanup hitter.
But Grace certainly was in no slump in the third-seeded Black Panthers' District 5 Class A quarterfinal game Wednesday against sixth-seeded Conemaugh Township. He went 4-for-4 with two RBIs and scored a couple runs.
"I started hitting again," Grace said.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Northern Bedford’s Dan?Sollenberger is greeted after homering on Wednesday.
Actually, many of his teammates were hitting well in a 13-hit attack. The Panthers also got three hits, including a home run, from Dan Sollenberger, two hits and three RBIs from Joel Suter and another homer from No. 9 hitter Isaac Stern.
That was plenty of support for left-handed pitcher Logan Fluke, who tossed a four-hitter, struck out eight and benefited from four double plays in a 10-0 romp in six innings.
"They always have a solid team, and they do again," Indians coach Sam Zambanini said. "They've got some players who come out and put the bat on the ball. What impressed me most is they played solid defense, and that's what wins championships."
The Panthers (15-5) advanced to the semifinals to play second-seeded Tussey Mountain, a 12-2 winner over Southern Fulton, at 4:30 p.m. Friday at a site to be determined.
NBC began putting the pressure on the Indians (11-10) right away, scoring three runs on three hits and the only error in the first inning. Grace drove in Jake Stern with the first run on a single to left field. Sollenberger scored on an error, and Suter knocked in Grace with a single to center.
"Sometimes when you get up early, teams will just fold over and just give up," Grace said. [Conemaugh Township] fought back. They tried. Logan was real good on the mound though. It blew my mind."
"Logan pitched real well," NBC coach Dave McIlnay said. "He was working his fastball in and out."
Sollenberger delivered again leading off the third when he pounded a Dillon Boyer pitch over the right field fence. The next NBC run came via the long ball as Isaac Stern led off the fourth with a homer to right field.
Grace's third hit - a single to center - chased Matt Sollenberger home in the fourth.
"He's getting back in the groove," McIlnay said. "He started late this year because he had an ankle injury from wrestling season."
"He's a nice hitter," Zambanini said. "He gets the fat part of the bat out front."
Suter then followed Alex Corle's second double and a pitching change with a triple off of the top of the left-center field fence, plating Grace and Corle for the fourth run of the inning and the eighth of the game.
"Joel's been struggling," McIlnay said, "but he's been working hard on his hitting
Fluke worked out of a first-inning jam with three straight strikeouts. The Indians had runners on base in the next three innings, but NBC turned three double plays.
In the middle of two 4-6-3 DPs was one in which right fielder Suter caught Dan Zambanini's fly ball and gunned out Boyer, who had strayed too far off first base. The fourth DP was started by Fluke, who fielded Aaron Putryski's ground ball, threw to shortstop Jake Stern covering first, and Stern completed the play with a strike to Grace at first.
"It was really nice to get the double plays," McIlnay said. "They focused on the ball, and that was really nice to see. We've turned some double plays, but never four in a game. Logan threw well, and the defense stepped up."
Joe Roman, who played a tough first base for CT, walked Fluke with the bases loaded for the ninth run. Pinch runner Jake Frederick scored the final run on a Cory Furry ground ball.
The Panthers will now get ready for the Titans, who beat them twice during the regular season.
"We know we can do it," McIlnay said. "We just have to go out and do it."
CONEMAUGH TOWNSHIP (0): Boyer p-ss 100, Zambanini c 301, Shroyer ss-p-3b 201, Putryski 1b 300, Naugle rf 201, Speigle cf 201, Roman 3b-p 100, Yoder dh 100, Venet dh 100, Domonkus lf 000, Sanders 2b 200. Totals - 18-0-4.
NORTHERN BEDFORD (10): J. Stern ss 310, M. Sollenberger cf 411, D. Sollenberger lf 433, Grace 1b 424, Frederick pr 010, Corle 3b 412, Suter rf 302, Fluke p 200, Oswalt cr 000, Furry c 400, I. Stern 2b 311. Totals - 31-10-13.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Conemaugh Township000 000 X-0 4 1
Northern Bedford301 402 X-10 13 0
E-Roman. 2B-Corle 2. 3B-Suter. HR - D. Sollenberger, I. Stern. SB-M. Sollenberger, Oswalt. RBI- Suter 3, Grace 2, D. Sollenberger, Fluke, Furry, I. Stern. LOB-Conemaugh Township 4, Northern Bedford 8. DP-Northern Bedford 4. HBP-Boyer.
Conemaugh Township: Boyer (L)-3 2/3 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO; Shroyer-1 2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO; Roman-1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO.
Northern Bedford: Fluke (W)-6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO.
Records: Conemaugh Township (11-10); Northern Bedford (15-5).