Archbishop Wood comes up short to Twin Valley in PIAA AAA first round

WORCESTER — Bat met ball and Joey Lancellotti sent a baseball roaring to the sky toward left field.

As he ran toward his first base, his eyes were locked on the flight of the ball as it seemed destined for parts beyond the fence. Behind him, the Archbishop Wood bench exploded in euphoria, players vaulted the fence and catcher Nick Lafferty even found himself at home plate, his hand raised.

Then, the flight of the ball started to dip. It’s trajectory waned and the ball fell to Twin Valley’s left fielder, pressed up against the fence.

What seemed like another dramatic victory for Archbishop Wood fell a few feet short in a 2-0 loss to Twin Valley in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA baseball tournament Wednesday at Methacton. Lancellotti, who struggled with command early, gave up the only runs in the first inning.

“I thought he hit it pretty good,’ Wood coach Jim DiGuiseppe, Jr. said. “It’s what we’ve done all year in terms of battling to the end. I think we showed our character today and battled to the end. At this level, every team is good.’

Wood had been off since last Thursday’s District 12 title game, but DiGuiseppe said the same was true for most teams in the playoffs. Lancellotti, who threw 6.1 innings and ended with 13 strikeouts against six walks, said he felt rested and was throwing on a regular bullpen schedule through this week’s weather delays.

He did have to throw his warmups on flat ground and when he stepped onto Methacton’s high mound, the hurler couldn’t find his spots at first. Lancellotti walked the first batter then hit the next two to load the bags before recording two straight strikeouts.

“I’m not one to blame other things,’ Lancellotti said. “There was a little bit of a drop in the first inning but I just felt like I didn’t have it today.’

His walk to Rich Lennon brought in a run and a wild pitch to AJ Alexy alLowed a second runner to come in before Lancellotti rung up Alexy to end the inning.

“He was sitting back a lot and all of his balls were rising up or he was leaving them up in the zone,’ Lafferty said. “After about two to three innings he was able to start driving down through me and getting those breaking pitches working and once he started doing that he was flying through like he usually does.’

Lancellotti only allowed one hit, a hard-hit ball right up the middle off the bat Mitch Carsley in the fifth. The pitcher again faced a bases-loaded situation in that frame, but struck out the side without yielding a run. He also stranded a pair of runners in the third as the Raiders simply couldn’t catch up to his stuff once he got locked in.

“I was a little shaky in that first inning and couldn’t find my way through,’ Lancellotti said. “I didn’t give up a hit until the fifth inning. They didn’t really hit me well, I put the runs on myself by walking them and didn’t let them earn it.’

Lafferty helped Lancellotti through it by telling the pitcher it was just the two of them out there and all they had to do was get back to what they’d done all season. Lancellotti was 7-0 entering the game, though he did take the loss Wednesday.

But Wood’s bats were having their own issues with Alexy. The lanky right-hander wasn’t overwhelming but he did keep the Vikings from barrelling up pitches.

“I thought both pitchers threw very well with changing speeds,’ DiGuiseppe said. “Both defenses played well. We put some good swings on the ball, we had our opportunities. We just didn’t take advantage of them.’

Lafferty said Alexy had a solid fastball with good movement and he kept his pitches down in the zone. Alexy also got plenty of help from his defense.

In the bottom of the second, with men at third and second, Wood shortstop Tom Rosenbaum flared one into right, only to have the fielder make a diving grab to rob Rosenbaum of a hit. Center fielder Anthony Zupito led off the next inning with a shot to center that Twin Valley’s center fielder was able to run down and catch and Lafferty smoked a liner in the sixth only to have the Raiders second baseman snare it on a leaping grab.

Despite all the reasons to be frustrated, the Vikings dugout stayed optimistic.

“I always feel confident in our team, we’re always battling,’ Lafferty said. “You saw in the PCLs, the La Salle game, we didn’t stop there. I always feel confidence. When I saw that ball go up from Lance, I was standing at home with my hand up in the air. I have full confidence in our team and what we can do and I have full confidence in what they can do next year.’

Justin Rubin relieved Lancellotti in the seventh and despite loading the bases, the senior escaped with a scoreless frame to set up the final half-inning.

Bobby Heck drew a one-out walk but was erased at second when Rosenbaum grounded into a fielder’s choice. Zupito got plunked to put two men on and brought Lancellotti up one last time. The junior-eligible pitcher went down 0-2 in the count before he got all the way around on Alexy’s third pitch and sent it flying toward left.

“I’ve never played at this field, when I play at home I know when my ball is gone or not,’ Lancellotti said. “I didn’t know how it carried here. The sun wasn’t up, it’s a little windy, I couldn’t tell.’

Wood saw its season end in the first round of the state tournament for the second straight year, but it didn’t take anything away from what the Vikings had accomplished during the season. They won their first PCL title in 22 years, had the best regular season record in the league, won the District 12 title for the second straight year and engineered a number of thrilling victories.

“I think we were more confident in winning than we were losing,’ Lancellotti said. “We thought we were going to win that game even down two runs. The La Salle game, you should have heard our dugout, there wasn’t a single person that thought we were going to lose that game.

“I saw their left fielder get to the spot and it looked like he had it so that’s when I figured it wasn’t out.’

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