Hennessey’s gutsy performance helps lift OJR past Council Rock South in district opener

BUCKTOWN — Corey Hennessey ended up wet.

Just not the way he and the Owen J. Roberts baseball team seemed destined to be when thunderstorms rolled through the region Monday afternoon, creating a bit of havoc on the schedule of the opening day of the District 1 Class AAAA baseball and softball playoffs.

Instead, the Wildcats left-handed starting pitcher stood drenched alone. Compliments of Jake LeClerc and Ethan Gallagher, Hennessey received a bit of retribution and a bit of celebration.

“Yes, I’ve been known to throw a few water gallons on a select few,’ Hennessey said.

Hennessey hit the showers early after he came through with a gutty complete-game effort and the Wildcats’ bats came alive in the third and fourth innings where Joe Zgleszewski’s two-run single provided the decisive blow as Owen J. Roberts defeated Council Rock South, 5-3, to advance to the second round of the District 1-AAAA playoffs.

The No. 11 seed Wildcats (17-4) move on to face No. 6 Upper Dublin Wednesday (4 p.m.) after bouncing back from last Wednesday’s loss to Spring-Ford in the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game.

There wasn’t the residual effect one might have imagined though.

“After that game, we were pretty confident actually,’ third baseman Blake McCourt said. “It was a good game into the seventh. They beat us, but it was a good game with two good teams so we were pretty confident still. We had good practices and we came out today strong.’

McCourt (2-for-3, RBI), catcher Zgleszewski (2-for-4, two RBI), second baseman Riley McGinley (2-for-3) and OJR came out strong in every facet of the game, ensuring Hennessey got the best of the lefty vs. lefty matchup with C.R. South’s Rider-bound Jake Silverman (six innings, 10 hits, five earned runs, one walk, three strikeouts).

Hennessey allowed nine hits in all with single runs in the second, third and seventh, but the defense behind him — led by McCourt at the hot corner with six putouts, including snaring a hot shot and throwing out the runner at first to end the third inning — took care of their end of the bargain.

“I don’t get many strikeouts — look at the box scores — but our defense has come up huge for us all season and it came through again,’ Hennessey said.

“With Corey pitching, he throws strikes and you know there’s going to be groundballs,’ McCourt said. “You just have to stay down, pick up anything that comes off the bat towards the ground and we should be fine. He depends on us to get those outs.’

The Hawks got on the board first with a run in the second inning when Cody Kutler singled, stole second base and was driven in on a Nick Potente single. They plated another in nearly identical fashion, this time through Dean Obarowski and an RBI single by Josh Kim for a 2-0 lead.

But OJR came to life the second time through the lineup, McCourt driving in No. 8 hitter Griffin Hensley, who led off the inning with a single, and designated hitter Alex Condello driving in McCourt with an RBI single of his own to tie it 2-2.

“We thought he was going to stay away more because he was a lefty, changeups outside, fastball outside. He was coming in so we adjusted and started pulling the ball, going up the middle more,’ McCourt said.

With his lineup getting into the act, Hennessey settled in with 1-2-3 innings in the fourth, fifth and sixth.

“My off-speed was key today,’ he said. “I lost control of my fastball a few times but came back with a few changeups on the corners, some curveballs and had them fooled.’

The Wildcats struck gold in the fourth with a two-out rally. With the bases loaded courtesy of McGinley and Eric Keppel singles and a walk for Collin McCourt, Silverman hit Blake McCourt on the leg before Zgleszewski singled to left-center to drive in Keppel and Collin McCourt for a 5-2 lead.

The Golden Hawks had a chance in the seventh with four singles to score Kutler and load the bases, but Hennessey induced a pair of flyouts to get out of trouble and the first round.

OJR coach Greg Gilbert liked what he saw in the Wildcats’ first trip to the district playoffs since 2011.

“The kids didn’t panic when they went down,’ he said. “When you’re in an elimination game and you have kids who haven’t been in that situation before sometimes you’re a little panicky, but the kids did a really nice job making the adjustments they needed to make at the plate, knowing they were going to be able to come back.

“They’re a cohesive group that plays well together. They don’t rely on one particular guy in the lineup so they have confidence in each other.”

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