BOYERTOWN – Pennsbury senior Nick Price may have started the season in the middle of the Falcons’ pitching rotation but really has not seen a whole lot of action in the postseason.
That has not stopped the third baseman from contributing to the Falcons’ first ever run to a PIAA final.
In yesterday’s mercy rule-shortened five-inning win over District 11 champion Bethlehem Liberty, Price pushed a pair of runners ahead with a sac bunt in the second inning, setting the stage for Kyle Dear’s RBI ground-out to short for the winning run.
Price came through with two hits in the contest including a bunt single that loaded the bases in Pennsbury’s nine-run third-inning explosion, setting the table for Dear’s two-run single to the gap in right-centerfield.
“When I’m struggling at the plate, that’s what I like to do – I like to try to get on base and help my team anyway I can. I saw by where the third baseman was positioned, I had a shot to get a hit.”
With a clutch hitter like Dear hitting right behind him, Price doesn’t mind putting the bat in Kyle’s hands.
“He’s been coming through with some very clutch hits. He got a couple of RBIs against Neshaminy in the district playoffs,” said Price. “I know if I get on base, the bat’s in his hands and he’s a very special kid, he can do something with it.”
Liberty entered the PIAA semifinal ranked number three in the state and is among the elite teams in the Lehigh Valley. The Hurricanes, who came to Boyertown with wins in 17 of their previous 18 contests, put pressure on Pennsbury starter Billy Bethel right away, getting five of their first 10 batters on base.
Not one of those baserunners crossed the plate, however, and that set the table for the Falcons – who were already on top 1-0 – in the third inning.
In an offensive outburst that sent 13 batters to the plate, Pennsbury slapped seven straight singles including run-scoring hits by designated hitter Dave Murphy, shortstop Ryan McCarty, catcher Josh Tesarck, leadoff hitter Tyrone Hodges Jr. and Dear.
Three more runs crossed the plate in the inning on balls put into play by centerfielder Vaughn Ward and pitcher Billy Bethel.
“We’ve been working on hitting all year; we knew that was going to be a struggling point,” said Price. “We knew we were going to finally put it together.
We were just waiting for when it was going to come and it all came in that third inning.”
With runners at the corners in the fourth inning, the Falcons pushed the score to 12-0 on Ward’s single to right field. Defensively, Bethel settled down, retiring nine of the last 11 batters he faced.
Price was called upon to pitch against Parkland and he was Pennsbury’s most effective hurler that day, allowing just one baserunner in two innings in an 11-inning walkoff win over the Trojans.
After Bethel, senior righthander Ryan McCarty has been the Falcons’ go-to pitcher in the postseason and he’s come through with a win in the District 1 title game against North Penn and with a complete-game shutout vs. Perk Valley in states.
With an injury sustained by senior righthander Justin Ward, head coach Joe Pesci knew he’s need another hurler and McCarty has since jumped into the number two slot that Price held onto during the regular season. From his perspective, Price says he doesn’t mind.
“He’s been our second starter and it’s worked well for us,” said Price. “As long as it’s working well, it doesn’t matter.”
Fifteen of Pennsbury’s players are seniors and some were even part of the first team under Pesci to go to states two years ago. In 2015, the Falcons opened with a 2-0 win over D3 champion Hempfield then lost 2-1 to eventual state champion North Penn.
Price says this time will be different.
“We’ve never done this before as a program so it feels good to finally get there,” said Price, of the first Pennsbury baseball team to reach a PIAA final.
“A lot of us are seniors and we want to go out on top.”
“This time, we’re going to get there and we’re going to win it.”
Two-time York-Adams Interscholastic Athletic Association (YAIAA) Division 1 Champions, Dallastown enters the PIAA Class 6A title tilt riding a 20-game win streak, defeating Manheim Township, Penn Manor and Governor Mifflin in districts and Suburban One American League champion Hatboro-Horsham and Philadelphia Catholic League champ St. Joseph’s Prep in states.
The Wildcats outpaced their rivals by a 23-3 margin in three district playoffs including an 11-1 six inning win over Governor Mifflin in the D3 championship.
In states, the ‘Cats have overtaken their first three foes by a 19-3 margin.
TOP PHOTO: Pennsbury senior Nick Price takes a lead off first base in a recent postseason battle for the Falcons, who travel to Penn State Friday to take on Dallastown in the PIAA Class 6A Championship. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)