Parkland rallies past Owen J. Roberts, 4-3, in PIAA Class AAAA first round

EASTON — Consider it a fortunate set of circumstances.

Tony Galucy does … particularly after seeing his Parkland squad outlast Owen J. Roberts, 4-3, in the weather-delayed opening round of the PIAA Class AAAA baseball playoffs Wednesday at Easton High School.

Galucy and his staff got a solid, complete-game pitching effort from Rhett Jacoby, which proved big in the Trojans holding off the Wildcats after they took the lead for keeps in the fourth inning. And it’s been one of many for the District 11 champions, who have only one loss in 27 outings this spring.

“We’re lucky to have eight kids we can throw,’ Galucy said. “Because of that, none of them has had to overthrow.’

Jacoby kept Parkland’s roll going with seven frames of six-strikeout pitching. Limiting the ‘ Cats to one run over the final five — that after OJR had taken 1-0 and 2-1 leads through its first two at-bats — went a long way toward the Trojans qualifying for Thursday’s quarterfinal-round game at Immaculata University (4 p.m.) against Council Rock North — a 1-0 winner over Gov. Mifflin.

Owen J., in the meantime, saw the end to a season marked by a runner-up finish in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Final Four playoffs and a third seed out of District 1. But the Wildcats gave it a hearty effort, getting the tying and go-ahead runs on base with one out in the top of the seventh.

“We didn’t get any breaks the last couple innings,’ head coach Greg Gilbert said after seeing his club collect eight hits in the near-miss showing. “If a couple of hits had gone six inches in the other direction, there’s a good chance we could win the game. But we didn’t get the breaks.’

OJR cut into Parkland’s early 4-2 lead by scoring in the sixth, C.J. Weaver (single) coming around off Riley McGinley’s booming double to the outfield that flew beyond the reach of Trojan center fielder Andrew Roth. It resumed that roll with one out in the seventh, Collin McCourt (hit by pitch) and Blake McCourt (single) getting on base.

But Jacoby and his Parkland mates got out of the situation by getting Joe Zgleszewski to fly out to center, and Jake LeClerc on a groundout to shortstop. In the process, they ended a two-year run of frustration where the Trojans bowed out in the state playoffs’ opening round.

“As the year’s gone by, he (Jacoby) has been getting better and better,’ Galucy noted.

Owen J. used singles by Collin McCourt and Zgleszewski to get on the scoreboard in the first. McCourt stole second base, then moved to third off Blake McCourt’s grounder to short before Zgleszewski hit the ball up the middle.

After Parkland pulled even in its half of the first, Roberts took advantage of some loose defensive play by the Trojans to go back in front in the second. Riley McGinley reached base on a throwing error, moved to second off Ben Condello’s sacrifice bunt down the first-base line, took third when Eric Keppel singled and came home on a Collin McCourt fielder’s choice hit

“I was concerned when we came out committing errors,’ Jacoby said. “We knew going in Owen J. Roberts was going to roll the ball.’

The Wildcats’ lead lasted only another 1-1/2 innings, though, as Parkland picked up its offensive pace.

Evan McAndrew singled home Jeff Strisovsky (single) in the third, with Tyler Bruno adding a safety in-between. Bruno attempted to score the go-ahead run on the heels of Strisovsky crossing the plate, but a relay throw from the outfield to Zgleszewski at home was in time to get Bruno for the final out.

In the fourth, singles by Austin Mueller and Jacoby — sandwiched around Cullan Wadsworth’s sacrifice bunt down the right baseline — put Parkland ahead. The Trojans padded their lead in the fifth with a Justin Afflerbach double and successive singles from Chris Rabasco and Bruno.

“Once we got the lead, we were able to relax,’ Jacoby said.

That marked the end of start Corey Hennessey’s day, with one out and a pair of runners on base. Bobby Himes came in to get the ‘ Cats out of further trouble in the fifth, then twirled a 1-2-3 sixth in finishing with a pair of strikeouts.

“I think the rain might have hurt him,’ Gilbert said, a reference to the postponement of the game the past two days. “He hadn’t thrown for a while, but he battled.’

The state playoff loss closed out the scholastic careers for six Owen J. seniors, the McCourts and LeClerc among them. Collin and Blake, who manned the left side of the OJR infield this spring, both had two-hit days in their finales.

“This is an amazing group of kids. They’re such a pleasure to coach,’ Gilbert said. “They were a fun bunch that enjoyed the game and would do what you asked.’

NOTES — Parkland’s Justin Afflerbach got called off from taking first base after apparently being hit by a pitch in the fifth. That preceded his double to center.

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