BOYERTOWN >> After the dugouts were cleared and hands were shaken, Boyertown head coach Todd Moyer and Pope John Paul II’s Josh Hartline stood at home plate a few extra moments.
“May 11,” said Hartline, referencing next month’s Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game. “That’s what we said after the game … hopefully we see each other again May 11.”
Boyertown handed Pope John Paul II its first loss of the season Friday night, utilizing a five-run first inning and an effective start from reigning Mercury All-Area Player of the Year Pat Hohlfeld to claim a 7-3 win inside Bear Stadium.
Making his second start of the season, Hohlfeld picked up the win scattering three hits and three runs (one earned) to go along with seven strikeouts and no walks across six innings before exiting on 96 pitches. Grant Fronheiser pitched the final inning where he struck out two batters and forced a fly out to right field to end it.
“Obviously, we knew they (PJP) were undefeated coming in,” said Hohlfeld. “We knew that based on who they beat it would be a good game. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but they’re a good team.
“Like Coach Todd told us, next time we play them would be in the playoffs.”
With the win, Boyertown improves to 8-2 in the PAC and 8-4 overall, the Bears having now won their fourth straight. Coming off their best start in school history, PJP drops to 9-1 PAC (10-1 overall).
Still finding his rhythm after tendinitis put him on the shelf to start the year, Hohlfeld relied a bit more on his breaking ball than he had earlier in the week against Perk Valley.
“I didn’t feel like I was quite in a groove until I was tossing zeros up,” the right-hander said. “I think I started to click and hit my spots effectively later in the game.”
Hohlfeld helped himself in the top of the fourth inning. With a man on second base, he gloved a screaming shot off the bat of Colt Narciso back to the mound and flipped it over to first to prevent a run from crossing and preserve the 7-3 lead.
Boyertown batted around with a six-hit bottom of the first inning highlighted by Mitchell Peers’ full-count two-run double to right-center field. Catcher Anthony Rota followed with an RBI double as part of Boyertown’s 10-hit offense.
First baseman Noah Kurtz finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored while Rota was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI. Shortstop Quinn Mason scored twice out of the two-hole.
“You spot five runs to a good team,” said Hartline, “it’s tough to bounce back. That’s baseball — if they would have spotted us five, it would have probably been the same scenario. I’m just glad our guys kept battling and kept fighting.”
PJP starter Logan Mabry just didn’t have it on this particular night.
The right-hander gave way to seven runs (six earned) and a walk after he was credited to just one inning of work. Reliever AJ Stento was strong out of the bullpen, holding Boyertown to just four hits across five innings to go along with three walks. He also struck out three.
“Logan didn’t seem right tonight, I said it in the bullpen before the game,” said Hartline. “He just didn’t have it tonight, but the kid can pitch. We saw what he did against Spring-Ford, we know what he’s got. He’ll be back and so will we.”
Left fielder Dan Cirino knocked a two-run single to right field with two in the top of the second to give PJP some life. Center fielder Christian Wagner and speedster Mike Kelly each finished with a hit and a run scored.
“We’ve still got a one-game lead in the PAC,” said Hartline. “We had a great start — 9-0, best in school history. They played well in every game and earned every win.
“When you get a loss sometimes, it reenergizes you. There are things we need to work on, definitely. This game should help us recognize those things.”
At this point in the year, there’s certainly nothing guaranteed. Spring-Ford’s caught fire lately and Perk Valley plenty looks poised to do the same in what’s been quite an unpredictable spring season.
If Friday night is any indication, however the PAC playoffs shake out, it should be a wild ride no matter the finish.
Friday night’s win included, Boyertown has not lost to Pope John Paul II since their first matchup of the 2014 season. That same season, PJP went on to win the PIAA Class AAA title. Since, Boyertown is 6-0 against the Golden Panthers, the Bears holding a 40-14 advantage with three shutouts.