WHITEMARSH >> Souderton pitcher Blaise Sclafani didn’t need much help Wednesday afternoon, but Quakertown’s defense gave him some.
The Panthers committed three errors that resulted in three runs.
Sclafani struck out 12 batters over 5 2/3 innings to lead the No. 13 seeded Indians to a 4-2 win over the No. 4 seeded Panthers in the second round of the District 1-6A playoffs at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.
Souderton advances to face No. 5 Bensalem Friday in the quarterfinals.
The senior right-hander allowed two runs — both unearned — before leaving the game due to the 100-pitch limit. He allowed four hits and walked three batters.
“My whole senior season surprisingly I wasn’t on top of my game,” he said. “I knew today I wanted to come out, be completely different. I wanted to change all the things I’ve been doing about pitching and it worked. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. It felt really good to get back out there. Slider was working, fastball was working and coach was making a lot of good calls. Everything was working really well.”
“Unbelievable,” Souderton coach Mike Childs said. “He started off the beginning of the season rough. He started coming around towards the end here and for him — as a senior captain — to step up and do what he did today is absolutely huge. Not get rattled, do his thing, throw strikes. He stayed locked in.”
The Indians broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the sixth inning. Conlan Wall led off the inning with a single and Luke Barnum bunted him to second. Wall reached third when Luke Shank grounded out to first base. Sclafani stepped up and ripped a single into left field to put his team ahead for good.
“My first two at-bats I really wasn’t on top of his fastball at all,” Sclafani said. “I expected him to keep coming at me with it because I wasn’t hitting it. I got up 2-0 and I was looking for that fastball right there. That’s exactly what I had to do — right past the third baseman. I was looking for my pitch.”
Hogan Despain ran for Sclafani and advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored when David Gulibon grounded into an error.
Luke Taylor grounded into another error, scoring Gulibon and putting Souderton ahead, 4-1.
“We’ve made our fair share of errors,” Quakertown coach Jon Pallone said. “They made a couple errors, we made a couple errors. We just made a couple more. It’s a tight ballgame, 4-2. Whichever team makes zero errors would win the game and neither team did. We just made a little bit more.”
“We have this saying, ‘Nails in the coffin,’” Childs said. “Every time we score a run we nail the nails in the coffin. That’s our motto. All I ask these guys is to put the ball in play. Put the ball in play and crazy things can happen in a high school baseball game.”
The Panthers got one back in the bottom of the sixth. Mason Hicks reached on a one-out error, Nathaniel Barnes singled and Nolan Byrnes walked to load the bases as Sclafani reached his pitch limit.
Gulibon came on in relief and walked Brad Bryan to force in a run and make it 4-2. He finished the inning with back-to-back strikeouts to leave the bases loaded.
“Gulibon came in and walked the first guy for a run,” Childs said. “Some guys can roll over and say, ‘I’m nervous’ and get anxious. He came right in and did his job. That’s huge.”
Both sides went down 1-2-3 in the seventh inning.
Justin Guidos started for Quakertown and allowed four hits over 5 2/3 innings. He surrendered four runs — one earned — to go along with two strikeouts and two walks.
“He battles,” Pallone said. “That’s what he always does. He goes out there and battles. He was throwing pretty hard today, too. He has a really bright future ahead of him at East Stroudsburg. He’s a guy that’s going to continue to work. We’re really proud of him this year.”
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Gulibon singled and advanced to second on an error. He moved to third on a single and scored on Aaron Groller’s sacrifice fly.
Quakertown tied the game in the fourth. JJ Paul led off with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. He scored on an error.
Sclafani limited the damage in that inning. He got back-to-back big outs with a runner on third base to keep the score knotted at one. An inning later, He walked a batter with two outs and back-to-back passed balls advanced him to third. Sclafani got a grounder to third to end the threat.
In all, Quakertown left seven runners in scoring position.
“We’ve had those hits this year,” Pallone said. “We just didn’t get those hits (today). Way too many strikeouts (15), too.”
The loss brings an end to the Suburban One League American Conference champion Panthers season.
“It’s still a success — huge success,” Pallone said. “These guys have worked hard. Winning a championship is something that we haven’t done in 11 years. Our goal is obviously to move on to the next level each season. Spring training, league season, now postseason. Overall all together definitely a big success for us. It doesn’t feel like it right now, but when we look back we definitely had a great year.”
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