FRAZER – Pennsbury’s starting pitcher tossed the first game of his varsity career about halfway through the season and the closer really hadn’t seen a whole lot of action on the hill this year and yet somehow the duo got it done on the biggest stage of all, to date, for the Falcons.
In the District 1 Class 6A Championship Thursday afternoon at Immaculata University, starter Ryan McCarty and closer Nate Derry – a pair of seniors – combined to limit North Penn (17-4) to three runs, helping Pennsbury (18-6) to its first D1 title in over two decades with a 5-3 triumph over the Knights.
The Falcons were clinging to a 5-2 lead when Derry entered the game in the top of the seventh with the bases loaded and no outs, the go-ahead run staring at him from the plate.
“I was thinking I just gotta throw strikes, hopefully, get some ground balls,” explained Derry. “My defense has been great all year, let them make the plays and we’ll win the game.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
Derry induced a ground ball to North Penn designated hitter Billy Collins that turned into a force at second base for the first out. While a run scored on the grounder by Collins, it set the table for the game-ending play. That was a grounder tapped to the right side of second base by Knights rightfielder Joe Picozzi that was scooped up by McCarty for the 4-6-3 double-play that puts head coach Joe Pesci – who notched his 100th coaching win – in the record books.
The last coach to lead Pennsbury to a D1 title was the late Vic Napolitano. The former coach led the Falcons to three district trophies before stepping down in 1993.
“It’s very special to be in a class with Vic Napolitano and bring a district title back,” stated Pesci. “We won the league a couple years ago and we’ve been at the top of the league and the district for a couple of years so to finally step over that hurdle is phenomenal.”
While North Penn outhit the Falcons, 9-5, in the title tilt, Pennsbury got all its hits in a four-run fourth inning in which it batted around.
The Falcon pitchers, meanwhile, allowed lone runs in each of the fourth, fifth and seventh innings and forced North Penn to strand seven of eight men left on base in the last four innings.
For his part, McCarty – who made his first varsity start less than a month ago – limited the Knights to a pair of runs on nine hits in six innings pitched. He struck out just two batters but he walked only one.
Classmate Billy Bethel pitched Pennsbury to a 2-0 win on Tuesday in a D1 semifinal matchup with Neshaminy so the start in the final was either going to Nick Price or McCarty, who led the Falcons to a walkoff win over Downingtown East.
McCarty says he was not surprised he got the start.
“Prior to this game I know I wanted it,” said McCarty. “You know you have to be ready for it no matter what. Going in, I felt I’d be able to handle it so I wanted the job.”
According to Pesci the decision to go with McCarty was made midseason out of necessity when senior Justin Ward’s arm wasn’t available.
“Once we got later in the year we knew we needed to amp it up and get that third starter,” said Pesci. “We knew Ryan was special so we were holding him off.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete and you can’t not use all the tools that he brings to the table.
“We just knew he would be a bulldog.”
And he was.
With runners at the corners in the fifth, McCarty surrendered a run-scoring single to Knights shortstop Zack Miles then retired side by inducing a harmless fly ball smacked to left field by infielder Corey Stouffer.
With two outs in the sixth he gave up three straight singles to Rob Weiss, Matt Marino and Trace Colter then ended the rally by inducing a grounder to second base by leadoff hitter Tyler Siddal that resulted in a force at second base.
After seeing North Penn starter Matt Stevenson one time through the lineup, Pennsbury – which was trailing 1-0, entering the bottom of the fourth – got busy on offense.
Infielder Billy Bethel started the rally off with a double to deep left-center and came home on a single by shortstop Justin Massielo. Falcon DH Dave Murphy walked then he and Massielo advanced to scoring position on a passed ball.
Justin scored on a single down the left field line by McCarty and Dave came home on a bunt single by Price that handcuffed Stevenson, forcing him to throw errantly toward first base. Infielder Kyle Dear continued to impress with his clutch-hitting skills, pushing McCarty home with a single to right-centerfield that put Pennsbury on top 4-1.
The Knights – who opened the scoring in the top of the fourth with a leadoff double by Miles and a sac-fly by Stouffer – cut their deficit to two on singles by Colter, Ryan Bealer and Miles, who pushed the run in with a two-out single to right field.
The Falcons opened up a 5-2 lead however in the bottom of the fifth when North Penn kicked a couple of balls around. An error at short on a grounder by Hodges put a runner on and Tyrone came around on a one-out fly ball to left field that was not gloved.
Ironically, the inning ended on a nice play made by Knights second baseman Rob Weiss on a pop to left field by McCarty.
After leaving the sacks jammed in the sixth, North Penn loaded the bases again when Falcons reliever Alec Wilson walked a pair of batters sandwiched around an error he committed on a sac-bunt tapped back toward the mound.
But all that did was set up the dramatic finish for Pennsbury.
GAME NOTES: Miles reached base in all four at bats – double, single and two errors. For the game he finished with two hits, an RBI and a run scored.
WHAT’S NEXT: The top seed from District One in the PIAA Class 6A tournament, Pennsbury will play Parkland — the second-place team from District 11 — in the first round on Monday. Pennsbury has never won a state title.
Runner-up North Penn will play St. Joseph’s Prep, the No. 2 seed from District 12, on Monday. The Knights won state titles in their last three state tournament appearances, in 2009, 2013 and 2015.
District 1 Class 6A Championship
Pennsbury 5, North Penn 3
(June 1 at Immaculata)
NORTH PENN (17-4) 000 110 1 – 3 9 3
PENNSBURY (18-6) 000 410 X – 5 5 2
WP — Ryan McCarty 6IP, 2R, 9H, 1BB, 2SO; LP — Matt Stevenson 6IP, 5R, 5H, 2BB, 5SO.
EXTRA-BASE HITS: NP — Zack Miles 2B; P — Billy Bethel 2B
MULTIPLE HITS: NP — Miles 2-for-2; P — none.
RBI: NP — Miles, Corey Stouffer, Billy Collins; P — Justin Massielo, McCarty, Nick Price, Kyle Dear.
RUNS: NP — Ryan Bealer, Miles, Trace Colter; P — Tyrone Hodges Jr., Billy Bethel, Massielo, Dave Murphy, McCarty.