LAURELDALE >> Hamburg baseball made a piece of program history Thursday evening and it came at the expense of Berks League rival Daniel Boone.
The Hawks scored two runs in the top of the first inning at Muhlenberg High School, then got a complete-game, three-hit shutout from southpaw hurler Janson Youndt to beat the Blazers 2-0 and advance to the District 3 Class AAA semifinals.
Hamburg will face Susquehanna Twp., which defeated Berks cousin and potent outfit Twin Valley, 8-3, in the semifinals on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
With the win over the Blazers, the Hawks (14-8) also clinched a PIAA berth for the first time in program history. The top four clubs from AAA in D-3 go to states, which Hamburg has secured as a semifinalist.
Boone’s season ends at 12-8.
“I think this sets the bar at a new level for Hamburg baseball,” Hawks head coach Nick Evangelista said. “We had never qualified for states before, and to now be able to play five postseason games at a minimum now speaks volumes to our kids and sets the bar at another level.”
Hamburg’s head man denied that it was any more special doing it against a Berks County and a Section 1 opponent in Daniel Boone.
“No, I preach to our kids every day we play the game, not the opponent,” he said. “And we try to go about our business and believe in the philosophy we have. There are different philosophies for this game and we have some that we try to stick to, and we believe that works for us and our team and the build of our team.”
For the Blazers, a weak overall offensive showing against Youndt was not the way DB head coach Jason McCord envisioned the season drawing to a close. Boone’s struggles were best encapsulated by Brendan Rivoli’s one-out triple into the right field corner in the bottom of the fourth inning. It was his club’s first hit off Youndt – and Rivoli was left stranded there when Bryce Stout and Bryant Schwoyer both struck out swinging for the downs.
“We didn’t execute at the plate, we allowed (Youndt) to nibble on the corners all day long, then the balls we did hit were at guys,” McCord said. “We didn’t put any balls in play to contest them and make them make plays. To their credit, when they had to, they made great plays.”
The Hawks got to Schwoyer for all the runs they would need in their first at-bat, when they sent seven batters to plate and scored those two runs on three hits. Schwoyer was not sharp from the go, walking two of the first batters he faced. Ryan Smith and Mike Procak clocked RBI singles, both times with the bases juiced. The damage could have been much worse had Boone not pulled off an unconventional 3-2-3 double play with Hunter Epting at the plate to close out a messy first go-round.
He was relived after three by Jordan Goodrich, who pitched the final four frames. Goodrich also struggled with command at times, but kept Hamburg off the board the rest of the way.
Youndt was not overpowering, but reached back when he needed it. He struck out four and walked one, pitching to contact. In the fifth — one frame after stranding that one-out triple — he faced runners on second and third with two outs but induced a lazy fly to center off the bat of Joey Moyer to end the threat. He threw just 75 pitches during his performance.
“I just kept my head in it,” Youndt said. “I had (Wes) Krick behind the plate and seven guys behind me who I have complete confidence in. First-pitch strikes were a big thing. When you know how to pitch to them, you know how to get around them. … My location was working best. Wasn’t too strong with my pitches, but I was putting them where I wanted to and kept them off-balance.
“It feels great (to be going to states). We worked through some troubles during the season but fought our way through it. I’m looking forward to Tuesday.”
District 3 Class AAA quarterfinal