Golden Eagles use offense to get one more shot at Central
HOMER CITY — On Thursday afternoon, Tyrone baseball coach Kevin Soellner quickly realized his team wasn’t going to be able to win ugly as they had been in recent victories.
The Golden Eagles needed to have their bats come alive if they were going to play another game.
The Tyrone bats indeed came alive as the Golden Eagles pounded out nine hits — five of which went for extra bases — against Hopewell, the WPIAL champion.
With the offense doing its part, the Tyrone pitching duo, Aiden Coleman and Rodney Shultz, kept the Vikings’ bats silent by combining on a one-hitter to deliver a big 8-1 victory in the PIAA Class 3A state quarterfinal round at First Commonwealth Bank Field.
Tyrone will now play Central on Monday for a trip to the state finals on the line.
“Definitely, putting it (the ball) in play felt a lot better. We’ve been struggling with that a little bit,” Soellner said. “I keep making jokes every interview about ugly Tyrone baseball where we’re just manufacturing runs. But, today definitely we were earning them a little bit.”
In the last several wins to close out the regular season, and throughout the playoffs, the Golden Eagles had to find a way to manufacture runs as their hitting hadn’t been up to par.
Tyrone was facing a catcher, Chris Mullins, that Soellner felt wasn’t going to allow his team the chance to steal bases.
Shultz, who reached base on a walk as the second batter up in the first, attempted to steal second, but Mulins’ throw easily beat the senior to the glove of shortstop Luke Kerec, who applied the tag.
“We couldn’t really run the bases on that catcher (Mullins),” Soellner said. “Other than Hunter (Klotz of Central), he’s definitely the best arm that we’ve seen. We couldn’t run on him — we tried … First inning I tried to steal, but he just kind of put us back.”
The lone run the Vikings got came in the second when Roman Gill walked, moved to second on a 4-3 putout, then came around to touch home when Landon Fox singled down the third base line.
The Fox single was the lone hit of the day for the Vikings. Only three others would even reach base the rest of the day — Lucas Arington on a hit by pitch, Joseph Asvestas reached on an error by Tyrone third basemen Brandon Lucas in the fifth and the next batter, Couper Stala, walked.
“That’s what our plan was. We wanted to get a lead early and then play with it,” Hopewell coach Morgan Singletary said. “We’ve had leads early in games pretty much all playoffs — through the WPIAL playoffs and the state in the first round …. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hold it today. They’re a good hitting team. Both (of Tyrone’s) pitchers threw very well tonight. It just didn’t work out.”
Fortunately, for Soellner and Golden Eagles, the bats would come alive to the tune of six runs in the third inning,
First batter Zach Legars doubled off the centerfield wall, Blaine Hoover reached on an error when his flyout to Hopewell right fielder, Ty Eberhardt, was dropped.
Bryce Hunter hit a ball to second base in what should have been a routine play, but the throw by the Vikings’ Dylan Katcher sailed wide of first base. Legars scored on the play to knot the game.
Shultz and Lucas walked in consecutive at-bats before Hunter scored on a wild pitch by Hopewell starter Anthony Lasala with Ross Gampe up.
Gampe singled up the middle to push across Shultz and Lucas, and then was followed by a Coleman sacrific bunt that allowed him to move to second.
Luke Brooks went down swinging for the second out, but David Lang kept the momentum going with an RBI double to left center to score Gampe from second.
“I don’t know how many doubles they had, but they had a ton of doubles off us because they were hitting gaps on everything,” Singletary said. “Sometimes the games go that way.”
LeGars struck out to end the inning with his team clinging to a 6-1 edge.
The Golden Eagles would plate their final two runs of the game the very next inning as Hoover singled and scored on a Lucas double two batters later.
Gampe, who would then push Lucas home with a single to left field to set the final.
While offense was doing its part, Coleman continued to shut down the Vikings by working to five batters in the fifth inning before giving way to Shultz for the final innings.
Coleman’s line finished with seven strikeouts, three walks, 1 hit, 1 run, whih was earned on 95 pitches in five innings of work.
Shultz would work to the minimum of six batters through his two innings, striking out two and walking none on 28 pitches.
“We’ve lived on pitching, obviously,” Soellner said. “Aiden’s a wild card. If he’s throwing strikes and not walking, which is what happened the last time we played Central. If he throws strikes, I think he’s hard to hit … Rodney always throws strikes. He does well — I trust him.”
Tyrone will get a chance to advance to the state finals on Monday, and it will have a familiar foe in the other dugout in Central for the fourth time this season.
The Golden Eagles captured a 12-7 win over the Scarlet Dragons at home in the third game of the season, but lost at Central 14-4 in six innings during the regular season, and 11-1 in five innings in the District title game last week.
“A couple of my kids play travel with (Central coach) AJ (Hoenstine). So, he knows them,” Soellner said. “We know what they want to do, we know what they’re about. But, they are darn good. They are something to stop. We’re hoping to just make them earn it instead of giving them six walks. It will be good. This is what we wanted — we wanted another chance.”
HOPEWELL (1): Stala cf 300, LaSala p-ss 300, Mullins c 200, Buonaiuto lf-p 000, Arington dh-p 200, Nock cr 000, Gill 1b 210, Eberhardt rf 300, Kerec ss-2b 300, Fox 3b 301, Katcher 2b-cf 100, Asvestas cr-lf 100. Totals — 23 1 1.
TYRONE (8): Hunter cf 210, Grazier ph 100, Shultz ss-p 210, Lucas 3b 322, Gampe 1b 412, Coleman p-rf 300, Buck c 000, Brooks dh 301, Lang 2b 302, LeGars rf 211, Hoover lf 221. Totals — 25 8 9.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Hopewell 010 000 0–1 1 3
Tyrone 000 000 0–8 9 1
E–Katcher, Eberhardt, Buonaiuto, Lucas. 2B–Lucas 2, Brooks, Lang, LeGars. RBI–Fox, Gampe 3, Hunter, Lang, Lucas. SB–Nock, LaSala, Hunter, Hoover. CS–Shultz. PB–Buck.
Hopewell: LaSala (L) –2 2/3 innings, 4 H, 2 K, 3 BB, 5 R, 4 ER, 59 pitches.
Arington — 2 1/3 innings, 4 H, 3 K, 1 BB, 2 R, 2 ER, 56 pitches.
Buonaiuto — 1 inning, 1 H, 0 K, 0 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 17 pitches.
Tyrone: Coleman (W) — 5 innings, 1 H, 7 K, 3 BB, 1 R, 1 ER, 95 pitches.
Shultz — 2 innings, 0 H, 2 K, 0 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 23 pitches.
Records: Hopewell (18-6); Tyrone (20-4).