BENSALEM >> Wissahickon has had a problem all year. The team falls into a first-inning hole and can’t get itself out.
That problem cost the Trojans a number of games in the regular season and it cost them their first-round playoff game.
No. 15 seeded Wissahickon surrendered three first-inning runs and never narrowed the gap in a 5-1 loss to No. 2 Holy Ghost Prep in the first round of the District 1 Class 5A playoffs Tuesday at Ted Grabowski Baseball Field at Holy Ghost Prep.
“Our first inning has been our kryptonite all year,” Wiss coach John Bernhardt said. “They put up a three-spot in the first inning and it’s hard to bounce back. Kudos to (Holy Ghost pitcher) Peyton Birch. He did a nice job throwing and (our offense got going) just a little too late.”
Firebirds designated hitter Mark Seibert hit a two-run double with one out in the top of the first, advanced to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on a first-and-third play.
Those three runs were more than enough for Birch.
“(Pitching with a lead) makes it so much easier,” Birch said. “It makes the other team feel not so good, especially when you have a senior, older guy on the mound. They know it’s a tough hill to climb … It makes it so much easier to get an early lead. You feel so much more confident and you’re not afraid to be aggressive, no matter who’s at the plate.”
Birch threw 6 1/3 innings and struck out 11 batters to two walks. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Wiss’ Alex Tappen hit a solo home run. In total he allowed three hits.
The Firebirds made it 4-0 in the fourth inning on an Andrew Galasso two-out RBI single and 5-1 in the sixth when Wissahickon couldn’t field Sean Kerrigan’s safety squeeze.
The Trojans didn’t go down without a fight. Tappen — who homered in Wissahickon’s last playoff game against Perk Valley in 2016 — hit his solo homer over the left field fence on a 3-1 pitch to cut the deficit to 4-1 in the sixth inning.
“It was pretty much the same thing last year,” Tappen, who went 1-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout, said. “Last year I had been walked three times and then the fourth at bat I went yard. Then (today) I got walked my first AB on four straight. When you’re in that position and you’re 3-0 and then he throws you that strike, you have to be ready. He hung a curveball, it was one of his very few mistakes all game. I was able to put a nice swing on it and put it into the trees.”
In the top of the seventh, trailing 5-1, Wissahickon had the bases loaded with two outs and Tappen in the on-deck circle, but Mike Schoenleber grounded out to first base.
“You saw in that last inning we came to life there and loaded up the bases and had a chance to really do some damage,” Tappen said, “but things didn’t fall as we would’ve liked them too. I’m super proud of these guys and everything they’ve done.”
The loss brings Wissahickon’s season to an end. The Trojans had a big senior class — headlined by Tappen, Matt Shilling and Logan Willans — that had expectations for much more than a first-round exit.
“We always have high hopes coming into the year,” Tappen said. “Last year, the year before that and even our freshman year we’ve had the pieces. We’ve had the talent. We’ve had the pitching. We’ve had the order. We’ve lost a couple one-run games. We win those games and we’re in a different seed, different spot, maybe even have a home game and we’re in a different position in that standpoint. Going out in the first round is not something that we planned in the beginning. We were looking to make a run and qualify for states at a minimum. To say it’s a bit of a disappointment — absolutely.”
“It’s a tough pill to swallow to lose this early and go out,” Bernhardt said. “A lot of those guys have a really promising future ahead of them — Matty, Alex, Schoenleber — all those guys. They’ll be fine.”
Willans started the game on the mound and took the loss. He gave up four runs on five hits over four innings. He struck out one batter and walked three.
Holy Ghost Prep will face No. 10 Upper Moreland in the second round Wednesday. The Golden Bears beat No. 7 W.C. Henderson, 3-0, Tuesday.
“I like to think we have three aces,” Birch said of himself, John McCrane and Ryan Staropoli going forward in the postseason. “I don’t look at it as a 1-2-3, I look at it as a 1-1-1. All three of us are capable of having a very good game.
“I know (Upper Moreland is) a tough team, a chippy team, much like Wissahickon today. I’m very confident going into it, especially home-field advantage. For me it was a great mindset today. I wasn’t letting someone come in on our field and embarrass us. I’m sure the other two guys have the same mentality.”
Holy Ghost Prep 5, Wissahickon 1
Wissahickon 000 001 0 — 1
Holy Ghost Prep 300 101 x — 5
WP: Peyton Birch 6.1 IP 11 K 2 BB 3 H 1 R 1 ER
LP: Logan Willans 4 IP 1 K 3 BB 5 H 4 R 4 ER
Save: Andrew Galasso .2 IP 0 K 0 BB 0 H 0 R 0 ER
2B: HGP: Mark Seibert.
HR: W: Alex Tappen.