BETHLEHEM >> Daniel Boone’s baseball season didn’t project to end in quite this fashion.
One of the best-hitting lineups in Berks County and all of District 3 this spring, the Blazers ran into a southpaw buzzsaw at Lehigh Unviersity Monday in the first round of the PIAA 5A playoffs.
Whitehall’s Alex Bruneio held Boone to just three bases hits, all singles, while getting plenty of late offense to support a 7-0 verdict in his favor.
Whitehall moves onto Thursday’s 5A quarterfinals despite still being under .500, at 11-12, for the season. Boone’s season wrapped at 16-7.
Bruneio held the Blazers without a hit until Devon Garner’s fourth-inning single in the hole between third and shortstop. Boone was never able to create a sustained push against the Whitehall ace, who pitched to mostly harmless contact in an expedient time frame. He struck out just two, walked one and benefited greatly by a late defensive meltdown that took a tight 2-0 ballgame into blowout territory.
“Playoff baseball, so many times, you’re only one hot rm away from being in real trouble,” Boone head coach Jason McCord said. “And to their credit, (Bruneio) threw a great game. He was everything we expected. We knew he had big strikeout numbers coming in and had good command an he living up to the billing.
“We put together a plan but it’s hard to replicate that plan, but you don’t have many guys that are going to come out and sit mid-80s with a great slider. He’s a tough arm to face.”
The Blazers had Luke Heffner on the mound and for the better part of four frames, the Boone senior matched Bruneio’s effectiveness. Whitehall took a 1-0 lead in the bottom f the third inning when Bruneio helped himself with a one-out triple to the right center field gap to score Matt Dobeck, who had walked just in front of him.
The Zephyrs doubled to edge in the bottom of the fourth, when a relay throw to first on attempted double play skipped past first base and allowed Jake Lisiky to score.
Heffner was replace by Matt Henderson to start the bottom of the fifth. The bases were loaded on a single and a pair of walks before McCord turned to Zach Brightbill to get out of the jam.
Brightbill appeared he might do so by getting the next two batters, but a fielder’s choice safe at first play in which John Kaintz beat Brendan Rivoli’s throw to first made it a 3-0 game.
Jacob Paashaus followed with an RBI rip to right for a 4-0 edge and a commanding lead from which Bruneio could comfortably close it out.
Though the 2017 campaign ended with a sudden thud, McCord said he will fondly recall this batch of Blazers. His biggest regret from Monday’s result, he said, is that there won’t be a game on Thursday.
“What we’ve accomplished on the field is so far surpassed by what we’ve done in the locker room,” McCord said. “When I say these guys love one another and will be friends for life, it’s not an understatement. This is greatest group of kids I’ve ever been around and I’d want nothing more than to spend every day with them. Each of these kids is like my own sons.”
“Brendan Rivoli said it best: Don’t try to replicate us. be better than us. And he’s right. You can’t replicate what this season was. We can try to be better. And it starts tomorrow.”
PIAA 5A first round
Whitehall 7, Daniel Boone 0
Daniel Boone – 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 3 3
Whitehall – 0 0 1 1 2 3 x — 7 7 1
WP: Alex Bruneio LP: Luke Heffner
3B: W, Bruneio, Zach Hamscher