ASTON >> Youth baseball teams assign a high value to having sufficient pitching when the post-season rolls around.
Ryan McCarty paid Pennsbury particularly big dividends Thursday. The senior right-hander, relatively new to the craft, pitched the Falcons to a heady 3-0 victory over Perkiomen Valley in a PIAA Class 6A playoff quarterfinal game at Neumann University’s Bruder Field.
“I played second base all my life,” McCarty said after completing a five-hit shutout. “I pitched here and there because I can throw strikes.”
McCarty helped his cause with key defensive play, picking one PV baserunner off second base and erasing another in a rundown play joined by third-baseman Nick Price. His batterymate, catcher Josh Tesarck, threw out two other Vikings on the way to a victory that put the District 1 champions in Monday’s semifinal against Liberty (8-0 winner over Frankford) quarterfinal.
“This was probably my greatest outing,” McCarty said. “Working with the coaches, I learned to pitch much better.”
The loose play on the basepaths was key to Perk Valley seeing an otherwise-memorable season come to an end in the second round of states. The Vikes, who got to this level as the district’s fourth-place team, saw nine of their baserunners not get any closer to home plate than second base.
In the field, PV twice tried to pick Pennsbury runners off first. Both attempts, however, were thwarted by relay throws that went out of play, enabling the Falcons in question — Josh Tesarck in the fifth inning, Tyrone Hodges in the seventh — to move to third before scoring eventual insurance runs.
“We did stuff we haven’t done all year long, bobbling two balls in the infield,” PV head coach Ryan Hinkle noted. “It wasn’t like they killed us with their bats. We didn’t take advantage of what we had.”
Pennsbury scratched out the ultimate game-winning run in its first at-bat. Hodges singled to left field to lead off the game, advancing on Billy Bethel’s sacrifice bunt back to the mound. Dave Murphy then singled to right field, just beyond the reach of sprawling PV second baseman Colin Buckwalter, to drive Hodges home.
The Falcons padded their lead in the fifth with Tesarck (single) getting to third off the pickoff throw going awry. He was then awarded a trot home for Pennsbury’s second run when PV pitcher Mike Gama was called for a balk.
In the seventh, with Jamie Glass on to pitch in relief of Gama, the Falcons got a third run with two outs. Hodges (single) got to third after surviving a pickoff attempt, then came home when Bethel’s grounder to the left side was misplayed.
Perk Valley then went down in order in the bottom half of the frame, ending a season highlighted by firsts and renewed energy.
“We set a new standard here,” Hinkle said. “When I took over, making the PAC (Pioneer Athletic Conference) playoffs was something.
“This is the first time we made states, and won a state playoff game. We can now say we are one of the top eight teams in the state.”
Gama left after getting to the 99-pitch mark by the end of the sixth inning. He was touched for five of Pennsbury’s six hits — Murphy (2-for-2) and Hodges (2-for-3) the Falcons’ leaders — and two walks, with two strikeouts to his credit.
PV’s offense was led by Dylan Boyd, who singled twice in a 2-for-3 outing. Matt Szczesny, Mark Ott and Brock Helverson were the Vikes’ only other batters hitting off McCarty, who threw just above 90 pitches in his complete-game stint.
“My curve has been working out for me,” McCarty said, “and I have confidence in my fastball.”
“He did everything we thought he’d do,” Hinkle said of McCarty, who classified himself as Pennsbury’s number-two hurler. “He spotted his curve and fast ball. He executed.”
While the Vikes graduate nine seniors from the 2017 roster, Hinkle believes the foundation set by this group will be solid next spring.
“We have Helverson and (Tyler) Stretchay back on the mound. They’re our one and two pitchers, so that’s a positive.
“I’d like to see what our junior-varsity team can do — it was 9-6 this year. I want to see how our young pitchers handle things, and we have some bats coming up. I’m excited for the future, and happy we set the tone.”
NOTES >> Strechay initiated a nifty double play in the fourth. He fielded McCarty’s sharply hit ball to first, got the force at the bag, then relayed to shortstop Anthony D’Abbene to erase Murphy at second.
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