Pennsbury remains in PIAA hunt with walkoff win over Conestoga

FAIRLESS HILLS — Often, the measure of a good team is not how many opponents they dominate, but how many times they fight back to grab a victory. In the District One Class AAAA consolation matchup between Pennsbury (18-5) and Conestoga (13-7), the Falcons once again showed their mettle as they staged a seventh-inning rally to nip the Pioneers 2-1 and stay alive in the hunt for a state playoff spot.

Going into the contest, the Falcon players knew they faced a big challenge in the presence of Conestoga’s Brendan Little. The 6’2′, 200-pound North Carolina bound pitcher boasts a potent pitching arsenal. The lefty flamethrower’s fastball has been clocked at 92-94 MPH. Combine that with a wicked 77 MPH curveball, a circle change and cutter and you have a hitter’s nightmare.

To stay in the game, Pennsbury knew they would need a top performance from their senior righthander Logan Buell. They got just that as Buell mixed a fastball and off-speed pitches to keep the Pioneers in check. Buell would finish the day, allowing just six hits and one run while striking out seven and issuing only one free pass.

Both pitchers showed their dominance in a fast-played first inning that saw only one runner reach base. The second inning continued the scoreless affair but proved a bit more taxing on both hurlers. Buell walked Tom Fogarty and surrendered a single to Greyson Avots before bearing down and whiffing Mark Anderson.In the bottom of the second, the Falcons managed to up Little’s pitch count, a factor that might have been key to their late game heroics. After striking out the leadoff hitter, Little gave up a line drive double to his mound opponent, Buell. Two batters later, Pennsbury outfielder Tom Augustin was hit by one of Little’s 93 MPH fastballs. Falcon catcher Kyle Marshall followed by drawing a free pass to load the bases. Little avoided further damage however, by getting leadoff hitter Pat Lawrence to ground out sharply to third base.

Neither team offered much offensive punch over the next two frames. They managed only one harmless single apiece.

In the fifth inning, the Pioneers eked out what appeared to be a possible game-winning run. Luke Czepiel led off and blooped a soft pop-up to centerfield that just tipped off of shortstop Zach Szumigala’s glove. A sacrifice bunt moved Conestoga’s pinch-runner to second base. Mark Anderson drove in the go-ahead run when his soft liner to left squirted away from Augustin in left field.

When Little struck out the side in the fifth inning and gave up a lone single to Buell in the sixth, it appeared the Falcons’ great season, that included winning the Suburban One League (SOL) National Division with a 12-2 record, would end. The Pennsbury players knew otherwise. They had already won three walk-off victories earlier in the year.

Buell summed up the never-say-die spirit after the game. “I knew at some point, we were going to come around because we’ve been doing it all season. The last inning, we’ve literally owned. I don’t think there is a better team than us in the last inning.’

With Little starting to show a bit of fatigue, Augustine drew a walk to start the seventh. He advanced to second on Kyle Marshall’s sacrifice bunt and then raced to third on a wild pitch. Lawrence kept the Falcons’ state playoff hopes alive when he drove a ball past the drawn in infield.

Pennsbury was not just content to send the game into overtime. After moving Lawrence to second on a bunt, Falcon coach Joe Pesci sent in speedy junior Bryan Kimbrough to run. Pioneer coach John Vogan countered by walking Zach Szumigala to set up a lefty-to-lefty confrontation with DJ Endler.

The senior first baseman was up for the challenge. “I got on the plate and was looking for something I could drive and I got it.’

Endler battled Little all the way, fouling off three pitches before stroking a hard line drive to right, plating Kimbrough with the winning tally.

The dramatic 2-1 win sends Pennsbury into a Thursday match-up with Boyertown and a shot at the fifth and final state playoff berth.

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