Hornets battle, but fall to District 11 champ

SCOTLAND – Juniata Valley didn’t seem the least bit overwhelmed by the situation when the Green Hornets took the field for their PIAA Class A quarterfinal round baseball game.

The Hornets plated two runs in the top of the first, enough to get thoughts in motion that Valley could produce its second straight victory over a district champion.

However, every time the Hornets slugged Schuylkill Haven, the District 11 champ Hurricanes hit back harder, and more often.

Schuylkill Haven stayed one step ahead of Juniata Valley for most of the way, then erupted for six runs in the bottom of the sixth to eliminate the Hornets from the tournament by a 12-5 count at Greene Township Park on Thursday.

“I thought we had a shot. We just didn’t bring our A-game,” said Hornet senior left fielder Zack Faubert, who tripled and doubled in the loss. “That’s all there is to it.”

The District 6 runner-up Hornets actually ended up outhitting Schuylkill Haven, 12-10, but they came out a little behind in a number of areas that all added up in the end.

Valley pitchers issued seven walks – including four to lead off innings – while Schuylkill Haven’s Nick Behm didn’t give up a free pass. Six of the game’s eight extra-base hits belonged to the Hurricanes, who only left five runners on base, compared to nine for the Hornets. Five of the runners Valley stranded were at second or third.

Schuylkill Haven also was aggressive on the basepaths, steals three bases to Valley’s one, which probably contributed to the Hornets also committing a pair of balks, throwing three one pitches and giving up a passed ball.

“I can’t figure it out,” Valley coach Bill Peters said. “I really (thought we were ready) the way the game started. But when they got ahead of us, we weren’t quite as sharp. I [still] felt we were in the game until the sixth inning.”

Despite its struggles, the Hornets were only down a run through their half of the sixth after scoring a pair of runs on an error in the top of the inning.

Things fell apart in the bottom of the sixth, though. Schuylkill Haven’s Mike Ulsh singled, and the next three Hurricanes worked walks off Juniata Valley reliever Jesse Claar, who came in in the fourth for starter Caleb Taylor, before Ryan Fink’s two-run single and Alex Bailey’s double broke it open.

The Hurricanes now have scored 24 runs in their two PIAA playoff games, improving to 20-6 and earning a berth in the PIAA semifinals on Monday against Philadelphia-area power Devon Prep. Zavier Webb and Fink did most of the damage: Webb was 2-for-2 with a homer, four runs and two RBIs, while Fink went 3-for-4 with a triple and drove in four runs.

“It’s was an offensive explosion today,” Webb said. “Everyone’s having really good at-bats. We scoring, and we’re hitting the ball hard.”

Schuylkill Haven coach Scott Buffington, though, was concerned when his team found itself down right out of the gate.

“I didn’t like falling behind against a kid (Taylor) who doesn’t usually give up too many runs. You’ve got to give credit to Juniata Valley a lot of credit. They came out ripping. It was like guys were running up, ‘Get me a bat. I want a chance at this.’ Nothing they hit was soft,” Buffington said. “Fortunately, we came right back. I think that was a turning point, very, very early in the game, that we were able to answer in the bottom of the first inning there.”

After two flyouts started the game, Konner Barton, Claar and Taylor hit consecutive singles, then Claar came in to make it 2-0 when Bailey mishandled a Sam Singer grounder. Schuylkill Haven, though, scored twice with two outs in the bottom half. Then, after Kordell Collins’ sacrifice fly plated Faubert following his one-out triple in the second, the Hurricanes scored three times in the bottom of the inning on a walk, two errors, a pair of fielder’s choices, a Webb single, a Danny Blugis double and a Fink triple.

“Caleb just wasn’t as sharp as he usually is, I thought. He gave us three innings, but we decided to bring Jesse in, and Jesse hasn’t pitched in quite a while. I think he gave us his best,” Peters said.

Valley had chances to get back in it in the third and fourth, but Zach Beam was induced to hit an inning-ending groundout with Taylor on second in the third, and Peters decided not to chance sending Faubert home from second with two outs in the fourth on a slow grounder to right.

“I thought the relay was just too good,” Peters said.

Along with Faubert, Claar and Taylor both had a pair of hits for the Hornets. All three are seniors, as are fellow starter Sam Gildea and reserves Zach Grove, Kyle Smithmyer and Justin Houck.

“It’s been a great season. These seven seniors, we’re going to miss,” Peters said. “They did a great job of leadership.”

Valley finished 15-8. The Hornets played their first-ever interdistrict playoff game on Monday, when they beat Lancaster County Christian, 2-1.

“I’m really, really proud of my team. It was a lot of hard work. We’ve been practicing every day, even though we don’t like to, but we did it, and it got us pretty far,” Faubert said with a smile. “I’m happy to be the first team to go to states from JV.”

JUNIATA VALLEY (5): Collins 2b 311, Hensor ss 401, Barton cf-rf-3b 411, Claar rf-p-rf 412, Taylor p-cf 402, Grove cr-ph-dh 111, Singer c 301, Grissinger cr 000, Smithmyer ph 000, Beam 3b 401, Leydig 1b 000, Gildea dh 200, Faubert lf 312. Totals 32-5-12.

SCHUYLKILL VALLEY (12): Webb rf 242, Blugis c 301, Handling cr 020, Fink 2b 423, Bailey 1b 311, Behm p 201, Brown cr-pr 000, Moyer 3b 300, Saul ph 000, Feryo lf 301, Ulsh ss 411, Fanelli cf 220. Totals 26-12-10.


Juniata Valley210 002 0- 5 12 3

Schuylkill Haven230 106 X-12 10 3

E-Bailey, Claar, Hensor, Leydig, Webb, Ulsh. LOB-Juniata Valley 9, Schuylkill Haven 5. DP-Juniata Valley. 2B-Blugis, Faubert, Bailey, Feryo. 3B-Faubert, Fink. HR-Webb. RBI-Taylor, Fink, Behm, Collins, Fink, Webb 2, Blugis, Bailey, Saul. SF-Collins. SB-Fink, Webb, Hensor, Fanelli. PO-Webb.


Juniata Valley: Taylor (LP)-3 IP, 5 R, 3 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 1 SO; Claar-2 IP, 7 R, 7 ER, 4 H, 4 BB, 1 SO; Beam-1 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 SO.

Schuylkill Haven: Behm (WP)-6 IP, 5 R, 2 ER, 12 H, 0 BB, 8 SO.

Claar pitched to six batters in the sixth.

HBP-By Claar (Behm). WP-Taylor, Claar 2. PB-Singer. BK-Taylor, Beam.

Records: Juniata Valley (15-8); Schuylkill Haven (20-6).

Umpires: Mike Zimmerman, plate; Ted Oppegard, first; Ross Shinew, second; Jim Droz, third.