Bearcats cruise to championship
A big box in the Huntingdon Area High School baseball team’s to-do list for the 2018 season was checked off Wednesday night.
The Bearcats used the excellent pitching of senior right-hander Jared Showalter, a potent batting attack that featured two home runs, and the ability to cash in on mistakes by Bald Eagle Area to repeat as the District 6 Class 3A champion with an 11-1, five-inning victory at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Showalter tossed a nifty two-hitter and also ended the game with a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth inning that brought the mercy rule into effect.
“I had everything working today, and I felt good with all my pitches,” Showalter said. “It feels great to be back-to-back (in championships), and to know that we’re still on top in District 6.”
Huntingdon (20-1) will move on to the PIAA Class 3A state playoffs against the second-place team from the WPIAL — either Brownsville or Avonsworth — on Monday, June 4.
The Bearcats are considered strong favorites to contend for the PIAA state championship, but Huntingdon coach George Zanic knows that his team must take one step at a time.
“We have accomplished a lot of our goals, now there’s one goal left,” Zanic said.
Huntingdon capitalized on a pair of Bald Eagle Area errors, three hits, and four walks to score six runs in the bottom of the second inning and take a 6-1 lead.
A two-run single by sophomore right fielder Rece Ritchey and an RBI bloop double by senior center fielder Nick Zanic plated three of the runs, and three others scored as a direct result of Bald Eagle Area errors.
“Huntingdon is a very talented team, and what they do best is take advantage of any opportunities, and that’s what happened in the second inning,” said BEA coach Jim Gardner, whose team dropped to 12-10 and will also advance into the state playoffs on June 4 as the District 6 runners-up.
George Zanic agreed that Huntingdon cashed in on its chances.
“We took advantage of their mistakes, and when you have a lineup like we have, we’re always going to put pressure on (opposing) teams,” Zanic said.
The way that Showalter was pitching, the big lead was more than enough.
“Jared Showalter is the best pitcher in the state,” George Zanic said. “He’s 7-0 with three saves and an earned run average of (less than one run). He was very solid tonight on three days rest.”
Huntingdon added four runs in the fourth inning, chasing BEA starting pitcher Hunter Brooks and taking a 10-1 lead.
Senior shortstop Nick Holesa belted a two-run homer over the right field fence off Brooks, and Huntingdon scored two more runs off reliever Garret Barnhart as senior designated hitter Landon Fisher belted a two-run single.
Showalter ended the game in the bottom of the fifth inning by tagging a Barnhart curve ball into the left field bleachers.
“I felt it (was gone) right off the bat,” Showalter said. “He had thrown me two previous curve balls, and I was sitting on that one.”
Now Huntingdon moves on to the state tournament again after reaching the PIAA semifinals a year ago.
“This is a great, senior-laden team, and I can’t say enough about my coaching staff,” George Zanic said. “This is where we expected to be, but the kids (still) had to get us there, and they did. It’s going to be a fun run. Win or lose, we’ve accomplished a lot.”
BALD EAGLE AREA (1): King 2b 310, Donley rf 201, Reese cf 100, Brooks p-lf 100, Bisel c 200, Barnhart lf-p 200, Gardner 3b 100, Jordan Jones 1b 200, Jaden Jones ss 201. Totals — 16-1-2.
HUNTINGDON (11): Zanic cf 421, Holesa ss 321, Showalter p 322, Mykut c 201, Peck cr 010, Weglarz lf 200, Briggs 1b 210, Gearhart 3b 000, Fisher dh 312, Snare cr 000, J. Ritchey 2b 211, R. Ritchey rf 211. Totals — 23-11-9.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Bald Eagle Area 100 00X X–1 2 2
Huntingdon 060 41X X–11 9 4
E–Brooks, Bisel, Gardner, Jaden Jones, J. Ritchey 2. 2B–Zanic, J. Ritchey. HR–Holesa, Showalter. RBI–Reese, R. Ritchey 2, Fisher 2, Holesa 2, Showalter, Zanic. LOB–Huntingdon 6, Bald Eagle Area 3. SB–Snare, Holesa, R. Ritchey. SF–Reese. DP–Huntingdon turned two (both J. Ritchey to Holsea to Briggs).
Bald Eagle Area: Brooks (L) 3+IP, 5H, 8R, 5ER, 4BB, 1SO; Barnhart 1.1 IP, 4H, 3R, 3ER, 2BB, 1SO.
Huntingdon: Showalter (W) 5IP, 2H, 1R, 0ER, 2BB, 6SO.
WP–Showalter, Brooks, Barnhart.
Records: Bald Eagle Area (12-10); Huntingdon (20-1).
Umpires: Marty Knozevoich (plate); Tony Sottile (first base); Ben Furman (second base); Andy Brown (third base).