SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP. >> This is not the way Scott Hahn, Cameron Mathes and the nine other seniors on the Marple Newtown baseball roster wanted to go out.
After making the PIAA Class 4A semifinals as juniors, they had visions of ending their high school careers with a Class 5A state title.
Instead, a couple of errors, an outstanding pitching performance by Wallenpaupack’s Austin Gilpin and a controversial appeal play late in the game brought the Tigers’ season and seven-game winning streak to a close in a 2-0 loss to the Buckhorns in the state quarterfinals Thursday at Parkland High School.
The District 2 champion Buckhorns (18-2) advance to the semifinals for the first time in program history, where they take on District 11 champ Whitehall, a 5-2 winner over Upper Moreland.
Marple Newtown is left to wonder what could have been.
“It was a great game, a great season, it just didn’t go our way at the end,” a dejected Mathes said.
Two errors in the bottom of the third inning were costly for the Tigers (18-8), but it was an appeal play following an apparent RBI single in the top of the sixth inning that finished Marple Newtown for good.
With Hahn at second and Luke Zimmerman at first, Woodcock laced a single to center that appeared to chase Hahn home with Marple Newtown’s first run. Wallenpaupack fans began to yell that Hahn missed third base so Buckhorns coach Todd Schmalzle decided to appeal the play.
Umpire Dan Baker called Hahn out to end the inning.
“None of the coaches saw it,” Schmalzle said. “It was Tom Peifer, a former superintendent at Wallenpaupack and a former coach at Wallenpaupack. Actually, I believe he was our last district championship coach. He’s a big baseball guy. I coach his grandson so when he says something, we listen.
“He started yelling from the stands that he missed third base and some of the parents starting scream that Tom said he missed third base so we said we’re going to appeal it. That was a great pickup by Tom and our fans. That was big for us.”
Hahn said he touched the bag, but a replay on BRC-13 TV out of Lehighton, which broadcast the game, clearly showed that Hahn missed the bag.
“Scott’s a good baserunner and we do a lot of base running drills,” Marple Newtown coach Mark Jordan said. “That’s just baseball. It’s dumb luck. I never saw that happen before, a dead-ball appeal, but they told me it was legal. That would have made it 2-1 and we could have put a little pressure on them, but we just didn’t do enough with the bats.”
Marple Newtown’s problems started in the bottom of the third inning when Mathes could not handle a ground ball by Adam Sands. One batter later Hahn bobbled a comebacker by Izaiah Santiago, but recovered in time to make a play on Sands at second base. Hahn’s throw, though, was low, putting runners at first and second and the Buckhorns capitalized.
After a sacrifice bunt by Morgan Theobold, Tyler Kirstens slipped an RBI single and Derrick Vosberg followed with a ground out to first to make it 2-0.
“I didn’t get that play and it kind of started their inning,” Mathes said. “I feel like crap for not making that play.
It would have been worse had it not been for Corey Woodcock. With Kirsten at third base, the senior right fielder made a diving, tumbling catch of a ball off the bat of Max Alessi to end the inning.
“We fielded the ball great all during our win streak and we hit the ball great,” Jordan said. “Today, it just didn’t happen. It was one inning. They didn’t do much damage to Scott (Hahn) at all.”
Hahn only allowed three hits, all singles, and threw just 82 pitches in his six innings of work.
“I felt good,” Hahn said. “I had a few days off.”
Gilpin, though, was a little better on this night. He overcame some early struggles with his curveball, and mixed in a nasty changeup and above average fastball to scatter five hits and struck out seven before giving way to Mitch Guerrieri, who earned the save.
“In the beginning, my curveball was sitting up,” Gilpin said. “I was kind of aiming it more than just throwing it. Toward the end I got the feel for the seams and I just let it fly.”
“He was up in the zone a little bit, both with his fastball and his curveball early in the game, but he throws so hard that he was able to get away with it,” Schmalzle said. “Then he settled in and started getting the ball down in the zone and when he’s hitting spots he’s tough to hit.”
Gilpin was that Thursday night, and so was Guerrieri.
“We hit too many balls in the air and had too many strikeouts,” Jordan said. “Kudos to their pitchers, they were good pitchers. They mixed up their pitches well. We saw that all year so it’s not like we were surprised by it.
“It’s not a best-of-7 series. It’s not Cavs-Warriors. This is playoff baseball. It’s one-and-done and this was their night.”