BOYERTOWN >> Six times on Wednesday afternoon, Boyertown starting pitcher Mike Hohlfeld slowly walked from the mound to the dugout with his head down, making sure not to step on the third base line along the way.
Then on his seventh and final trip back to the dugout, he clapped his right hand into his glove before tossing it into the grass and letting out a smile as he joined his teammates in the handshake line along third base.
Hohlfeld carried a no-hit pitching effort into the seventh inning — only to have it broken up with one out in the frame — as Boyertown topped Methacton 3-0 in the second round of the District 1 Class 6A playoffs at Bear Stadium.
“I don’t really show emotions much when I’m out there on the mound,” said the cool and calm right-hander after the game. “For me it’s just about staying calm. I knew I had a no-hitter going — I looked out at the scoreboard a couple times, but I was trying not to think about it too much.”
Hohlfeld was masterful, balancing his fastball with his curve while striking out seven and walking three in the complete-game effort. The lone hit he allowed — a bloop single by Jordan Lukas with one out and a man on in the seventh — dropped into no-man’s land between the second baseman and right-fielder.
“I saw that hit land and I thought to myself, ‘Well, that just happened,’” recalled Hohlfeld. “So my focus then became just finishing the game.”
He got some immediate help from the defense behind him.
On the next at-bat, Methacton shortstop Josh Dubost hit a flare on the first pitch he saw into shallow center where a charging Austyn Levengood sprawled out to make a diving catch. The center fielder then jumped up and fired it to second base where he nearly caught the runner on his way back to the bag.
“That was huge. If he dives and misses that’s probably at least a single, maybe a double,” said Hohlfeld. “A runner would have scored and they’d have all the momentum in the world.”
With the win, No. 8 Boyertown (17-5 overall) advances to the quarterfinal round and is a win away from returning to the PIAA Class 6A playoffs. The Bears will get a home game on Friday against No. 16 Conestoga — a shocking 2-1 winner over top-seeded North Penn — on Friday afternoon.
Methacton’s run comes to a close at 15-6 overall, the No. 9-seeded Warriors’ season ending with a district loss against a Pioneer Athletic Conference opponent for the second straight year.
On a day where Methacton pitcher Zack Griffin was equally dominant to his counterpart, it was the Warriors’ bats that wouldn’t come through.
“It’s unfortunate to end it this way,” said Methacton manager Paul Spiewak, noting that the Warriors hadn’t hit well in either of their two games prior to Wednesday, which included a 3-1 loss against Phoenixville in the PAC playoffs. “You go through spurts in your lineup where you have guys that are struggling … but we just went through two weeks where we were struggling all the way through. We really cooled offensively at the absolute worst time.”
Despite his team being no-hit through the first six innings, Griffin kept the Warriors in it. He brought a one-hitter into the sixth inning, though that one hit proved to be a key poke from Boyertown’s Shayn Horrocks for an RBI in the bottom of the second inning. After running into some trouble in the sixth, Griffin was tagged for three runs (two earned) on three hits and three walks in 5-2/3 innings of work.
“It’s a shame because our pitchers — not just the last couple of weeks, but all season — have done nothing but give us chances to win games,” said Spiewak. “That’s all you can ask. It wasn’t lack of effort, it wasn’t lack of an approach, it wasn’t lack of focus. It was all physical. And as a coach, I can live with that.”
Boyertown added some insurance in the bottom of the sixth when Levengood reached on a single to right then eventually came in to score on an infield error off the bat of Jake DiCesare. Horrocks then drove in his second RBI on a single to left scoring Hunter Ewing from third base to make it 3-0.
For a few brief moments following the win, Boyertown manager Todd Moyer found himself thinking about North Penn, the team that ended the Bears’ district runs in two of the last three seasons.
“I was out here on the field raking dirt,” said Moyer. “Somehow the kids had the score loaded up and they were saying that Conestoga was leading. Then a few minutes later, (Mitchell) Peers yelled ‘Coach, it’s over! We’ve got a home game.’ We didn’t even have the field done yet and they already knew.
“I told them before the game, it doesn’t matter where we go or what we’re doing. We’ve got to win here then take care of business wherever we go. It doesn’t matter where we are or who we’re up against.”
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