Freshman Ritchey hits walkoff double for Bearcats
CRESSON — Thanks to unlikely hero Jack Ritchey, the Huntingdon Bearcats have advanced to the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class 3A state baseball tournament.
Ritchey, only a freshman, doubled home Ben Briggs in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Huntingdon a 6-5 win over Mount Pleasant on Monday afternoon at Mount Aloysius College.
The District 6 champion Bearcats will face District 10 champion Sharpsville on Thursday at a site and time to be determined. Sharpsville eliminated WPIAL third-place finisher Ellwood City, 5-2, Monday.
“I’ll bet when he woke up this morning, he didn’t even expect to get in this game,” Huntingdon coach George Zanic said of Ritchey, one of the last of 19 players used by the Bearcats.
Ritchey was inserted at third base in the ninth inning and came to bat in the 10th with Briggs, who had singled, on first with no outs.
“I was supposed to bunt,” noted Ritchey, who fouled off the first two pitches, “so I tried to get a ball I could hit.”
He got one he could hit and laced it to right center.
“It felt good off the bat,” Ritchey said. “The guy was playing toward left, and I poked it to right center.
“Being a freshman, you never know when you’re going to play,” he offered. “Everyone has played at some time, so you have to be ready. This was my biggest hit by far.”
As the ball soared into the gap, Briggs rambled around the bases and slid across home plate with the winning run.
“Quite honestly, I was just hoping he wouldn’t hit into a double play,” coach Zanic said after Ritchey failed to bunt. “We had the top of the order coming up and we’re confident with them.
“But, (Ritchey) more than did the job. He was on the Teener League state championship team and is a gutsy kid,” Zanic said.
WPIAL runner-up Mount Pleasant had leads of 3-1 and 5-3 until Huntingdon battled back to tie it at 5-all in the sixth on Nic Zanic’s sacrifice fly.
Alex Mykut pitched five sterling innings of relief, facing only 17 batters and giving up just one hit and one walk while striking out four, to gain the victory.
“My fastball and curve were working well,” said Mykut, who also is a standout wrestler and football player. “I kept pounding the strike zone and the fielders made the plays behind me.”
Huntingdon starter Jared Showalter wasn’t his usual self, but Mykut was clutch and the Bearcats are moving on.
“We only have two seniors, but we’ve played a tough schedule and these kids play under pressure,” coach Zanic said.
“This is Huntingdon’s first PIAA appearance since 2004,” Zanic continued. “This is a great win. Our kids are flying high.”
Game notes: Huntingdon collected 14 hits — three by Holesa, who had two doubles and a triple. … Briggs also had three hits — two singles and a double. … The losing Vikings managed just six hits. … Weather was overcast but no rain fell. … A big crowd was on hand because of extra innings and with Juniata Valley and Greensburg Central Catholic playing the next game.
MOUNT PLEASANT (5): Tetteris ss 411, Reese cf 511, Beranek 3b 411, Duricko c 501, McCormick p-1b 401, Jones cr 010, Piper dh 401, Secosky 1b 000, Wagner rf-p 300, Lynch lf 400, Shrum 2b 210. Totals — 35-5-6.
HUNTINGDON (6): Zanic cf 321, Holesa ss 513, Showalter p-rf 401, Baney rf 301, Mykut c-p 200, Fleming c 000, Peck c 101, Wagner ph 111, Fisher dh 400, Huntsman 2b 000, Weglarz lf 511, Briggs 1b 513, Gearhart 3b 200, Connor ph 000, R. Ritchey ph 101, J. Ritchey 3b 101, Safko cr 000. Totals — 37-6-14.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Mount Pleasant 003 020 000 0–5 6 2
Huntingdon 012 011 000 1–6 14 1
E–Holesa, Duricko, McCormick. 2B–Duricko, Holesa 2, Briggs, J. Ritchey. 3B–Holesa. RBI–Zanic, Holesa, Showalter, Fisher, J. Ritchey, Duricko 3, Piper, Wagner. WP–Mykut. LP–Wagner. SO–Showalter 5, Mykut 4, McCormick 3. BB–Showalter 1, Mykut 1, McCormick 3.
Records: Mount Pleasant (13-7); Huntingdon (14-7).