WARMINSTER >> The first round of states has been a tough nut to crack for Dock Mennonite over the past few years.
Tuesday, the Pioneers’ struggles in the PIAA playoffs continued as they fell 4-3 in the Class 2A first round to Neumann-Goretti, in part due to some shaky defense, ending their 2017 season.
“The last three years we get into the first round of the playoffs and the errors consume us as a team,” said Dock head coach Ed Melendez. “We play good solid defense the whole season and then in a game like today we come out and stuff like that happens.’’
The Pioneers only had three errors as a team, but they seemed to all come during costly moments.
Neumann-Goretti’s first batter of the game hit a soft pop-up for what looked to be a routine fly ball, but it bounced out of shortstop Andrew Walters’ glove, allowing the runner to reach base safely and eventually score.
Then, in the sixth, with Dock trailing 2-0 and looking to mount a comeback, a bouncing ball to the left side went off the bag and gave the third baseman trouble, allowing the batter to reach and subsequently score an insurance run for the Saints.
“I mean our first inning was brutal,” said Melendez. “The ball is popped up to the shortstop and he drops it. Then, in the sixth, the ball bounces off the bag but give Danny (Sabath) credit, he was able to get his command and really pitch for us.”
Sabath, who started the game for the Pioneers, struggled early but eventually found his groove.
He allowed two runs in the first inning due to some control issues that led to three walks, but he settled down nicely.
Sabath finished the afternoon with nine strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings and allowed four runs, but just two of those were earned.
“I felt pretty good and settled down after that first, the command of my slider just wasn’t there early and I walked a few guys,’’ said Sabath. “Once I settled down, things got better for us as a team.’’
Even though Sabath was sharp for most of his outing, his counterpart, Neumann-Goretti starter Phil Sanborn, was even better as he flirted with a no-hitter.
Sanborn pitched six hitless innings, and kept the Dock offense silence with his command and off-speed stuff.
It was his change-up and his breaking ball that really seemed to give the Pioneers trouble and allowed him to mow down the lineup without much of a problem.
“He (Sanborn) was awesome,’’ said Neumann-Goretti head coach Mike Zolk. ‘‘He came out, he dealt, and he competed his tail off.’’
The Saints held a commanding 4-0 lead as Dock came up to bat in the seventh, but they would manage to make it interesting.
Not only would the Pioneers get their first hit of the game off Sanborn, but they scored three runs in the inning, two coming from a two-RBI single from pinch hitter Connor Schnable.
Unfortunately for Dock, the comeback came up just short, as Mason Fisher rolled over a pitch with Schnable on first and send a weak grounder to short, giving the Saints the win and advancing them to the quarterfinals.
“Unfortunately for us, this has come three years in a row,” said Melendez. “I have to give a lot of credit (to Sanborn), he was on and tremendous with his command, but in that last inning we needed to capitalize and we did but unfortunately we had already fallen behind in that first inning and that sixth inning and it killed us.’’
Neumann-Goretti 4 Dock Mennonite 3
Dock Mennonite 000 000 3 – 3 2 3
Neumann-Goretti 200 002 x – 4 3 2
WP: Phil Sanborn (7IP, 3R, 2ER, 2H, 6K, 1BB, 0HBP).
LP: Daniel Sabath (5.2IP, 4R, 2ER, 3H, 9K, 5BB, 1HBP).
2B: NG-Aidan Baur.