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Souderton’s strong start enough to hold off Neshaminy in District 1-6A 1st round

Souderton’s Blaise Sclafani celebrates his RBI double during the Indians' District 1-6A first round game against Nesahminy on Monday, May 21, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

LOWER SALFORD >> Every run the Souderton baseball team scored Monday afternoon was followed by the Indians pounding on a stake near their dugout at Vic Alderfer Memorial Ball Park.

“We started that near the end of the season cause we went on a little bit of a losing streak and ever since we’ve been doing that — just reminding us about finishing teams off. It’s really helped us,” Souderton sophomore shortstop Conlan Wall said.

That message got hammered into the Indians again as a District 1-6A round contest that had the makings of a rout ended with Big Red breathing a sigh of relief but still claiming their first postseason victory in 11 seasons.

Souderton jumped out to a 7-0 lead after three innings against visiting Neshaminy, but had to hold off a late charge from the No. 20 Redskins before earning the 8-6 win.

“We got a couple new guys here in playoff baseball and I said ‘Listen, we got to hit them early.’ We did, but then we got to keep hitting them,” Indians coach Mike Childs said. “We didn’t do that, we backed off a little bit and all of a sudden we got a little tight with a couple walks and everything else, walked a run in and then had a guy dead at third base and overthrew third base.

“In playoff baseball, we got lucky today, but it’s a good team that’s going to come back and get you.”

Souderton’s Luke Barnum runs towards home for a run during the Indians’ District 1-6A first round game against Neshaminy on Monday, May 21, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Neshaminy scored two runs in both the fourth and fifth to pull within 7-4. Aaron Groller’s RBI infield single in the bottom of the fourth pushed the Indians’ lead to four, which came in handy in the seventh when the Redskins loaded the bases with no outs after back-to-back singles by Cory Joyce and Brian Nicolas and Joe Kaleck getting hick by a pitch.

Joyce scored when Dalton hit into a 4-6-3 double play while Harold’s Landman’s RBI single to right plated Nicholas, cutting the margin to two. Groller, however, finally ended the rally with a strikeout as Souderton (14-6) avenged a loss to Neshaminy in last season’s district second round.

“They beat us last year 4-3, so these guys wanted it big-time today. We came out of the gate hot, went into a lull and battled back in the end,” Childs said. “I’m very proud of our pitchers and our hitters early.

Wall, the Indians’ leadoff hitter, went 3-for-3 with a walk, a doubled and scored three times as Souderton won its fourth straight and advanced to face No. 4 Quakertown in the second round Wednesday.

“It was intense. In the beginning we came out firing. We obviously kind of dulled out,” Wall said. “I guess our pitching really had to step up because we weren’t really finding the strike zone at first but we ended pulling through.”

Luke Barnum was 2-for-2 with a pair of sacrifice flies and three RBIs while David Gulibon went 2-for-4 with an RBI double as Souderton scored three in the first, a run in the second and another three in the third to build its 7-0 advantage.

The win is Big Red’s first in the postseason  since beating Cumberland Valley in the PIAA Class 4A semifinals in 2007. The Indians had lost their previous five playoff games prior to Monday — dropping district openers in 2016 and 2017 after missing the postseason the prior six years.

“These guys, they called it the curse but for them — Blaise (Sclafani) and (Luke) Barnum and those guys being sophomores — they haven’t seen a playoff win,” Childs said. “For them to get a playoff win, for them to get the playoff win and we’re preaching like, ‘Hey, how do want to be remembered?’ And they wanted to be remembered with at least one win and keep rolling and see what Quakertown does.”

Nicholas was 2-for-2 with two walks and scored three times while Turner collected two RBIs for Neshaminy (9-11). which earned the program’s third-straight district appearance after graduating 11 players for its 2017 side that reached the PIAA quarterfinals.

“A good team like that — especially with good pitching like that — you don’t have opportunities to kick the ball around, you don’t have opportunities to make bad throws, to make bad plays in that game,” Neshaminy coach Dan Toner said. To strikeout when you got guys in scoring position and like I said early on we kind of kick ourselves a little bit. Came back at the end, though. I’m very happy with the way they battled.”

Neshaminy shortstop Cory Joyce fields a throw to second during the Redskins’ District 1-6A first round game against Souderton on Monday, May 21, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Groller picked up the win for the Indians, coming with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth after starter Jordan Morales walked four straight batters to give Neshaminy its first run. The Redskins’ added another run on an error but Groller struck out three straight batters to limit the damage. He allowed four runs — three earned — on five hits, walked one, hit one batter and struck out eight.

Morales had seven strikeouts in his three-plus innings. He surrendered two runs — one earned — on one hits, one hit batter and four walks.

Neshaminy starter Jake Fehrle took the loss, giving up seven runs — three earned — on seven hits. He walked two, hit one batter and struck out a pair.

“He was struggling with his two-strike pitches,” Toner said. “If you notice, he got a lot of guys to that two-strike mark and then he left his two-strike pitches there for them.”

Wall started the bottom of first with a single, went to third after an error on Barnum’s sacrifice bunt then scored Monday’s first run on a Shank RBI sac fly. Back-to-back RBI doubles from Sclafani and Gulibon made it 3-0.

In the second, Wall led off with a double to left center and two batters later scored when Shank dropped an RBI single into left.

“For me, personally, I just wanted to jump on that first-pitch fastball cause I know he was throwing it there whole game really,” Wall said.

Souderton extended the lead to 7-0 with three more in the third. Zach Brown reaching on an error and consecutive bunt singles by Morales and Wall loaded the bases with no outs. A Barnum sacrifice fly plated Brown with an error on the play allowing Morales’ courtesy runner Hogan Despain to go home to put Big Red up 6-0. Wall scored his team’s run on Shank’s RBI sac fly.

Souderton’s Jordan Morales delivers a pitch during the Indians’ District 1-6A first round game against Neshaminy on Monday, May 21, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Neshaminy broke through in the fourth on Landman’s bases-loaded walk and Kaleck scoring after an Souderton error trying to pick him off third.

The Redskins scored twice more in the fifth. Gus Natelli — who began the inning with a single — scored on an error after a Kaleck fielder’s choice hit right back at Groller. Turner’s RBI sac fly made it 7-4.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Indians added a run back to their lead when Groller collected a two-out, bases-loaded infield single to bring home Shank.

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