PLYMOUTH >> Octorara junior righthander Aaron Feld has been the ace of the Braves’ staff this season, and one of the main reasons Octorara advanced to the District 1 Class 4A championship game Tuesday afternoon against New Hope Solebury.
Feld was marvelous again Tuesday, but was outdueled by the Lions’ Matt Benda, and fell victim to some shoddy Octorara baserunning, as the Braves’ season ended with a tough 1-0 loss in the District 1 4A championship game at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth.
Benda allowed the Braves (10-12) just three hits while striking out nine batters and getting out of some very tight jams, especially in the seventh inning, when Octoprara had men on first and third with just one out. Benda got the game-ender with a strikeout of Matt Rudisill and the Lions mobbed their star pitcher.
“We just work hard every single day in practice and in games and it paid off today,” Benda said. “Our coaches work really hard on us and they are very good. To win this district title is a very exciting thing and it is a good feeling. My catcher Danny Doherty did a great job framing pitches and keeping me grounded today.”
With the win, New Hope Solebury earned the district’s lone bid in the PIAA Class 4A bracket, where it will face the District 3 champion.
Octorara’s season came to an end in the loss.
Feld allowed just four Lions (15-7) hits while striking out eight and walking just one man. The only real threat New Hope Solebury had was when they plated the game’s only run in the bottom of third inning.
After striking out Jack Ganason to start the inning, Derek Smith lined a single to center. Connor Campbell rolled a ball to shortstop but the Braves’ Andy Imbierowicz threw high to first to put two men on base with just one out. Kevin Dougherty then singled through a drawn-in infield to give the Lions an early 1-0 lead. Feld got the final two outs of the inning and that was it for the Lions on the day.
Octorara had a man picked off second base in the third inning, and after mounting a threat in the bottom of the sixth, the baserunning gaffes happened again. John Cummings led off the inning by popping out to short left, but Imbierowicz singled and then stole second base with one out. Bobby Bright hit a sharp grounder to short and Imbierowicz broke from the bag, making him an easy out for the Lions at third. On the next pitch, Bright attempted to steal second and was thrown out easily to end the threat.
“We had some problems on the basepaths, but when you get just three hits you are not going to win a game like this,” Octorara coach Jed King said. “We just did not execute today and we did not swing the bats. But, give them credit. Their pitcher did a good job and he got us to chase some high pitches.”
With Feld holding New Hope Solebury to just that one run, Octorara was still in position to win the district title and advance to the PIAA playoffs. And it looked like that might happen in the top of the seventh inning off Benda.
Tim Lubrano led off the seventh inning with a solid single to right field. After Feld flied out, C.J. Pluck lofted a 1-1 pitch down the right field line that Lions right fielder Derek Smith got to, but dropped, putting Octorara runners on first and third with one out. With Rudisill up, Benda came in with a high fastball and Lubrano broke for home, stopped, and was trapped getting back to third base for the second out. Benda then ended the game with his ninth strikeout and the Lions erupted.
“When Derek dropped that ball I thought this is the bad break that is going to cost us,” New Hope Solebury catcher Dan Doherty said. “But we have practiced on bunts and squeezes all week so we were prepared and when we got that second out my stress level really went down. The coaches do a great job on this team.”
After a meeting with his team King talked about how far his Braves have come this year.
“I told the kids that I know it hurts but it is better to lose in a championship game that have your season end at the end of the regular season. We just did not hit today.”
New Hope-Solebury 1
OCT ab r h bi NHS ab r h bi
Imbrwcz ss 3 0 1 0 Dgherty cf 3 0 1 1
Bright 2b 3 0 0 0 Mertz ss 3 0 0 0
Lubrano c 2 0 1 0 Doherty c 2 0 0 0
Feld p 3 0 0 0 Shadle 1b 3 0 1 0
Pluck 1b 3 0 0 0 Benda p 3 0 0 0
Schllingr cr 0 0 0 0 Whitmn dh 2 0 0 0
Rudisill lf 2 0 0 0 K. Smth 2b 0 0 0 0
Unitis ph 1 0 0 0 Ganson 3b 2 0 0 0
Lewis rf 1 0 0 0 D. Smth rf 2 1 1 0
Thomas dh 2 0 0 0 Cmpbell lf 2 0 1 0
Lantz 3b 0 0 0 0
Cmmings cf 2 0 1 0
Totals 22 0 3 0 Totals 22 1 4 1
Octorara 000 000 0 — 0
New Hope-Solebury 001 000 x — 1
No extra base hits.
IP H R BB SO
Feld, L 6 4 1 1 8
Benda, W 7 3 0 2 9