PORTAGE - Williamsburg entered the District 6-A baseball tournament as a dark horse.
With senior Austin McMonagle in the saddle, the Blue Pirates are now chomping at the bit for a district championship.
McMonagle tossed a masterful complete game in Monday's quarterfinals, striking out 12 batters and allowing just six hits in seven innings, to spark the ninth-seeded Blue Pirates to a 6-2 win over top-seeded Portage at Haschak Memorial Field.
Catcher Tyler Shaw knocked in three runs for Williamsburg (9-12), which advances to Thursday's semifinal round at fourth-seeded Juniata Valley. Valley moved on with a 3-0 win over Conemaugh Valley Monday.
Williamsburg jumped out to a 6-0 lead after two innings and closed the books on Portage's 16-3 season. The Blue Pirates scored twice in the first inning, loading the bases immediately before RBI groundouts by Shaw and shortstop Silas Dishong produced the runs.
The Blue Pirates added four more in the second inning, with second baseman Cory Houck drawing a bases-loaded walk off Portage starter Bailey Kerch to force in the first run, and Shaw's two-run single to left field plating two more.
"We jumped on it quickly, and got ahead in the game,'' Williamsburg coach Mike Welch said. "That really helped us out.''
Especially with a standout like McMonagle on the mound.
"Austin's been our workhorse,'' Welch said. "He's been averaging between 11 and 17 strikeouts per game, and throwing really well for us this year.''
Veteran Portage coach Larry McCabe knew that the Mustangs would have their work cut out for them against McMonagle, and falling behind 6-0 made for a large mountain to climb.
"He's definitely one of the best arms we've seen this season,'' McCabe said of McMonagle. "We've battled back from large deficits in games this season, but against him, you don't get many opportunities. We had to put pressure on their defense and put the ball in play on the ground today, and we didn't do it. He struck out 12 batters, and got all but one of the rest of the outs on popouts or flyouts.''
McMonagle pitched Williamsburg - which has five freshmen in its starting lineup - to a victory over eight-seeded Penns Manor in the opening round of the playoffs last week. He and his teammates didn't feel that Portage, despite its top seed, posed an insurmountable obstacle.
"We didn't doubt we could win this game,'' he said. "They're a good hitting team, so we knew we had to hit the ball and play well in the field, and that's what we did.''
Portage scored its two runs in the third inning, when centerfielder C.W. Miller smacked a two-run double. Other than that, however, the Mustangs' hitters were kept at bay by the right arm of McMonagle.
"We had a great season, and we have a great group of seniors,'' McCabe said. "It's tough to go out like this, but it all goes back to their pitcher. He was the one who was making it happen today.''
WILLIAMSBURG (6): Houck 2b 321, Carper cf 411, Austin McMonagle p 311, Shaw c 401, Tate cr 000, Dishong ss 200, Verbonitz 3b 300, Kensinger rf 412, Pasley lf 401, Kauruter 1b 311. Totals - 30-6-8.
PORTAGE (2): Dividock lf-p 413, Miller cf 201, Kerch p-lf 400, Vocco c 300, Usry rf 000, Rosemos dh 300, Bryja 1b 301, Madigan ss 301, Coukart 3b 300, Swank 2b 310. Totals - 28-2-6.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Williamsburg240 000 0-6 8 0
Portage002 000 0-2 6 3
Williamsburg: Austin McMonagle (W), 7IP, 6H, 2R, 2ER, 12SO, 2BB.
Portage: Kerch (L), 2IP, 6R, 4ER, 3BB, O SO; Dividock 5IP, OR, O ER, 3H, 1BB, 6SO.
E-Dividock, Vocco, Coukart. 2B-Miller. RBI-Shaw 3, Houck, Dishong, Miller 2. LOB-Williamsburg 8, Portage 6.
Records: Williamsburg (9-12); Portage (16-3). Umpires - Cory Theys (plate); Don Bachot, Willis Dubose (bases).