Central flexes muscle

Imler throws a two-hitter

Photo for the Mirror by Jim Baker Central’s Chase Smith yells in jubilation after he and Alex Hoenstine scored on a Jacob Muthler single.

EVERETT — Phillip Dull can touch 90 mph with his fastball and already has accepted a baseball scholarship to West Virginia as a high school junior, so it takes a special kind of opponent not to be intimidated, physically or mentally.

Central’s Jarrett Imler is that kind of player.

“I wanted Dull,” Imler said. “I knew he’d be good. I knew he was good competition for me, and I wanted him. I think that built me up for the game.”

It sure looked that way. The Scarlet Dragons’ diminutive bulldog of a right-handed starter held Dull and District 5 Class 3A champion Chestnut Ridge to two hits while going 3-for-3 himself. Meanwhile, Central looked every bit the part of a team used to playing in the interdistrict playoffs, bouncing back from its upset loss to Huntingdon in the District 6 finals to dispatch Ridge in just five innings, 10-0, in the opening round of the PIAA tournament at Everett Elementary School on Monday.

“It feels great,” said Dragon center fielder Chase Smith, who was 1-for-3 with a two-run triple and three runs. “Obviously, we have a sour taste in our mouth after the district game against Huntingdon, but all our guys are playing with fire right now, and I wouldn’t want to play us.”

Jacob Muthler and Brice Brumbaugh drove in two runs apiece for Central, which scored its first seven runs with two outs, plated at least one run in every inning and turned two double plays despite the absence of second baseman and leadoff hitter Larry Corle due to illness — Noah Muthler filled in for him.

Central improved to 21-3. The Dragons will return to action on Thursday in the quarterfinals against the winner of today’s Riverside/Fairview contest — that first-round matchup was postponed because of rain.

“I was concerned about (this game). I didn’t know how they’d respond to that tough loss. They really took losing in the district championship hard,” Central coach A.J. Hoenstine said. “But they came to play.”

Imler, most notably. Staked to a 2-0 lead after half an inning, the 5-foot-7 senior righty just needed 45 pitches to set down the Lions … and 18 of those were in the first inning. Singles by Brodie Harbaugh and Justin McCoy were the only things that kept him from a no-hitter, and he allowed one walk.

“I took it like any other game: Coach called the pitch, and I hit the spot,” Imler said. “The two runs right off the bat set the tone for me and the game.”

“The term ‘bulldog’ is used a lot, but he wants the ball,” Hoenstine said of Imler.

Dull, whose upper right arm was tightly bandaged after he tweaked it throwing from the outfield over the weekend, only pitched 1ª innings, leaving with Central’s advantage up to 5-0.

Chestnut Ridge finished the year 13-8.

“That’s a tough team,” Chestnut Ridge coach Joe Perez said of Central.

A former minor league outfielder from the Indians and Rangers organizations, Perez said pitching and defense were the strongpoints of the Lions this year. However, Ridge committed five errors on Monday, including two on the first three batters of the game; Central scored five unearned runs.

Maybe that shouldn’t have been a surprise. While Central makes deep playoff runs almost every year and this year’s Dragon lineup is chock full of seniors, Ridge was playing its first PIAA playoff game since 2007, and Perez only starts three seniors.

“The experiences that they have make a difference, because they’ve been in this situation a lot, and they know how to take it,” Dull said. “None of us ever have been here in our careers, so it definitely was a different approach for them than it was for us.”

While Ridge was giving Central extra opportunities in the field, the Dragons were erasing the Lions’. Alex Hoenstine and Noah Muthler turned twin killings in the first two innings with Brumbaugh displaying flexibility to stretch at first on both, and then Imler picked off Derick Jones in the fifth before accepting Shawn Brady’s grounder to finish the game.

“That’s huge. They love playing defense behind Imler,” A.J. Hoenstine said.

Central brought the 10-run rule into effect with three runs in the top of the fifth. Brady Nicewonger doubled in a run, and then Brumbaugh and Alex Hoenstine hit sacrifice flies.

The Dragons collected nine hits, with only Imler having more than one. Central left just four runners on base.

“In the back of our mind, this could have been (our last high school game),” Imler said. “I don’t think we could have started off (the playoffs) any better way.”

CENTRAL (10): Hoenstine ss 311, Smith cf 331, McKnight 3b 301, Speck rf 201, Liebal lf 300, J. Muthler c 301, Karstetter cr 020, Imler p 303, Walters cr 020, N. Muthler 2b 000, B. Nicewonger dh 211, Brumbaugh 1b 010. Totals — 22-10-9.

CHESTNUT RIDGE (0): Dull p-ss 200, Diehl 100, Harbaugh cf 201, Lohr lf 200, Faupel-Persons rf 300, McCoy 3b-p 101, McVicker ss-3b 100, Jones ph 100, Brady 1b 200, Weaver 2b 000, Mowry dh 100. Totals — 16-0-2.

SCORE BY INNINGS

Central 231 13X X–10 9 2

Chestnut Ridge 000 00X X– 0 2 5

E–McVicker 2, McCoy, Faupel-Persons, N. Muthler 2. LOB–Central 4, Chestnut Ridge 2. DP–Central 2. 2B–B. Nicewonger. 3B–Smith. RBI–J. Muthler 2, Smith 2, McKnight, Brumbaugh 2, Liebal, B. Nicewonger, Hoenstine. SAC–B. Nicewonger. SF–Brumbaugh 2, Hoenstine. SB–Smith, Speck. CS–McKnight. PO–Jones.

PITCHING

Central: Imler (W)–5 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 SO.

Chestnut Ridge: Dull (L)–1ª IP, 5 R, 3 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 1 SO; McCoy–3•IP, 5 R, 2 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 SO.

HBP–By Dull (Brumbaugh, by McCoy (Speck).

Records: Central (21-3); Chestnut Ridge (13-8).

Umpires: Herb Moore, plate; Mike Brandt, first; Ron Beachley, second; Ron Brown third.

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