PHILADELPHIA >> Tyler Wiik was still acclimating to the field at George Washington High School Monday afternoon, feeding his coach baseballs for pregame drills, when the catcher got a little insight to the seven innings that lay head.
“The ball was really jumping off the bat,” the Northwestern Lehigh senior said. “In warmups, when we were doing infield-outfield, coach even turned to me and said, ‘wow I’m barely hitting the ball, and it’s going over the outfielders’ heads.’ So it was a good day to hit the ball here.”
Wiik quickly discerned that for himself, and his fellow Tigers exploited it for all it was worth.
The Tigers clubbed four home runs, two off the bat of Wiik, to batter Bonner & Prendergast, 8-0, in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A tournament.
Wiik wasted no time doing his part for the District 11 champions. Center fielder Trevor Schreiner opened the scoring in the first with a solo home run to deep right field, which sailed clear into the trees on the far side of Northeast Avenue. Three-hitter Wiik dug in next and put a charge into the first pitch he saw from Bonner starter Steve DiBattista, lofting a ball to center that kept carrying over the low fence.
“I think we all had the mentality to jump on them early, and we put some really good swings on the ball,” Wiik said. “… I was looking to drive a ball just to get on base, just to keep the momentum going after Trevor hit that home run. And I got a good pitch to drive, and I hit it over center field.”
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Rafe Perich rudely greeted reliever Brian Dunphy, the third of the Friars’ four pitchers on the day, with a three-run bomb to center. Wiik applied the finishing touch in the top of the seventh by golfing a Dunphy offering beyond the left-field wall for another solo job.
Wiik reckons it’s the first time he’s ever homered twice in a game at any level. Monday marks a season-high in homers for the Tigers (18-7), who advance to take on West Perry, which bounced Lower Moreland, 8-2.
But the Tigers’ progress owes to more than just their ability to mash. At every juncture, they supplied the exact play needed to generate momentum, then parlayed that into runs.
Bonner & Prendie (14-9) left 10 runners stranded, seven in scoring position. Though limited to four hits, all singles, the Friars worked six walks, including five in the first three innings, and put a runner on base in every inning but the fifth. Yet the big hit eluded them, thanks to lots of empty at-bats. Bonner struck out just seven times, for instance, but four were looking, an unpalatable level of timidity.
It was more than just at the plate, though, for the Friars, the District 12 champs who are 0-5 in PIAA tournament games all-time (dating to the Catholic League’s inclusion for the 2008-09 season). Take this turn of events: Bonner put two runners on in the bottom of the third, but a Colin McCormick fly ball to center was snared by a sliding Schreiner, ending the threat and saving at least one run in what was then a 3-0 game. Perich then led off the top of the fourth with a fly ball misplayed into a double by a flailing Matt Shepherd in right, then Nick Henry reached on an error.
Still, reliever Matt Maselli looked on the verge of wriggling out of the mess, inducing a 6-2-3 double play to cut down a runner at the plate … until he uncorked a wild pitch that Henry read expertly to scamper home and make it 4-0.
Those types of swings doomed Bonner.
“We had a lot of big plays in the field, a few double plays, (second baseman PJ) Tecco made a very nice play,” said center fielder Matt Headley. “We just couldn’t get anything going from it.”
Headley singled twice, the only Friar with multiple hits. But he lined out to short in the bottom of the seventh to end the game with the bases loaded. There’s another microcosm: Starting with the bottom of the lineup, Bonner loaded the bases with none out in the seventh before the 2-3-4 batters were retired looking, swinging and lining.
NW Lehigh’s pitching combination wasn’t overpowering but did enough. Drew White was effectively wild in two innings, then ace Mason Vogwill worked the next three, allowing just one hit to get the win. Vince Castrine steered in and out of trouble in the final two frames the preserve the goose egg.
Wiik scored three times and drove in two runs. Perich went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a couple of dandy plays at short.
DiBattista lasted just four outs, saddled with the loss for allowing four hits and three runs (two earned). Two of the three relievers allowed inherited runners to score. And the bats, which were fresh off a 13-0 win over Neuva Esperanza in the District 12 title game, couldn’t compensate.
All those factors swirled together to concoct an early states exit.
“It’s very frustrating,” Headley said. “Especially the last game we put up 11 runs in one inning, and we came out today and can’t get guys to the plate.”
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