LILLY - Penn Cambria senior pitcher Jordan Fuller went into the District 6 Class AA playoffs as a rookie, having never pitched in the postseason.
In the Panthers' first-round game against Cambria Heights on Wednesday afternoon, the right-hander looked like a seasoned veteran.
Fuller scattered six hits and had 10 strikeouts and no walks in a complete-game effort, as fifth-seeded Penn Cambria held on to beat the No. 12 Highlanders, 4-3, at Lilly-Washington War Memorial Field.
"I can't say enough about Jordan," Penn Cambria coach James Poldiak said. "He's done that for us all year long. He pitched a phenomenal game."
"It means a lot especially it being my first playoff game," Fuller said of his performance. "It was just a great experience. "
Fuller pitched to four or less batters - including striking out the side in the sixth inning - in each inning except for the seventh, where Cambria Heights did most of its damage.
The Highlanders used two hits and a pair of Zane Itle throwing errors from third base to their advantage to score twice and pull within one, but the bottom of the order couldn't complete the comeback.
"I felt pretty good," Fuller said. "I kept them pretty honest with the breaking ball and got it done with the fastball when I needed to."
"Last year he was a thrower. This year he is a pitcher," Poldiak said of Fuller. "He is just consistent, he throws strikes, he hits his spots. His curveball and slider work very well for him, and obviously he has a phenomenal fastball, too. Hopefully we can get another win so he can throw again next week."
Cambria Heights (7-10) started each of its scoring innings with hustle plays to beat out throws from the third base side - Andrew Brawley in the fourth, who later scored from second base on a double-play ball to the right side, and Tyler Crawford in the seventh.
"That's what we preached in open gyms back in January - give yourself a chance," Cambria Heights coach Adam Sowers said. "If you put the ball in play, give yourself a chance and put the pressure on the fielders to make the plays."
Penn Cambria (11-6), which will travel to fourth-seeded Ligonier Valley for the quarterfinals on Friday afternoon, made its noise and got to Heights righty Nathan Bearer early.
Simon Itle singled up the middle, and Joel Myers and Josh Vinglish each drew walks to load the bases. Fuller roped a two-run double down the right-field line, Justin Myers had an RBI single to center, and Dallas Jones, who was running for Fuller, stole home as Justin Myers stole second.
Fortunately, the four-run, three-hit inning was all the Panthers needed because the bats were silent for the rest of the contest.
"That first inning was key because we were able to get the bat on the ball and score some runs," Poldiak said. "Then it got real quiet."
Bearer had six walks - all in the first three innings - and the three hits he yielded all were in the first inning. From there, he coasted, retired the side in the final three innings and finished with eight strikeouts.
"I think a lot of it was getting loose and warming up," Sowers said of Bearer's early struggles. "We really haven't had a game since last Thursday, so I would just say that he wasn't real loose. Other than that [first inning], he really found the zone and started battling a little bit. That one big inning is all it was."
CAMBRIA HEIGHTS (3): Baker ss 300, Brawley cf 311, Crawford 313, Bearer p 300, Contorchick lf 312, A. Eckenrode 1b 200, Miller cr 000, Hoppel rf 300, Beach 3b 300, Serafin 2b 200. Totals - 25-3-6.
PENN CAMBRIA (4): Schwaderer cf 300, S. Itle 2b 311, Jo. Myers 1b 110, Vinglish rf 210, Jo. Fuller p 301, Jones cr 010, Ju. Myers ss 201, Ju. Fuller lf 200, Z. Itle 3b 300, B. Eckenrode c 300, Farabaugh cr 000. Totals - 22-4-3.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Cambria Heights000 100 2-3 6 1
Penn Cambria400 000 X-4 3 2
E-Baker, Z. Itle 2. LOB-Cambria Heights 2, Penn Cambria 6. 2B-Jo. Fuller. RBI-Bearer, Contorchick, Jo. Fuller 2, Ju. Myers. SB-Contorchick 2, Crawford, Jones, Ju. Myers, Ju. Fuller. CS-Crawford.
Cambria Heights-Bearer (L), 6 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 8 SO.
Penn Cambria-Jo. Fuller (W), 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 10 SO.
Records: Cambria Heights (7-10), Penn Cambria (11-6).