The Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media Baseball Team of the Decade tournament takes a lot of imagination. Fans are tasked with picking the winners of hypothetical matchups between two teams as far as nine years apart and from five different leagues.
Imagination isn’t needed in the semifinal matchup between No. 7 Pope John Paul II 2014 and No. 14 Methacton 2014. The league rivals met twice in the regular season and again in the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship game. They split their regular season meetings – the Warriors taking the season opener, 11-7, and the Golden Panthers winning, 6-4, a few weeks later.
The league championship game was not only one of the best games of the 2014 season – it has an argument for the game of the decade. Methacton won its first and only PAC crown, 1-0.
As tough as it is to imagine, the game was even closer than the 1-0 score indicates. It was a scoreless game through six innings before the Warriors pushed across the game-winning run in the top of the seventh in controversial fashion.
“Truly one of the more memorable games in our school’s history,” Methacton coach Paul Spiewak said. “Not only was it our first league title in the PAC, but the controversy surrounding the game was tremendous. (All of the) pitchers were lights out and nobody could score any runs at all.”
Kyle Lowery led off the top of the seventh getting hit by a pitch. A curveball in the dirt was ruled to have hit the cleat on the bottom of his front foot and he was awarded first base. Pope John Paul II coach John Duffy argued the call to no avail.
T.J. Tornetta laid down a sacrifice bunt, Greg Pellicano was intentionally walked and Jim Shomberg beat out an infield single to load the bases with one out. Pat O’Neil hit a ground ball to second base and more controversy ensued. Second baseman Billy Hitman’s throw arrived to the plate at the same time as a sliding Lowery. The umpire signaled safe, sending Methacton into celebration and infuriating PJP.
“It was a force play,” Spiewak said. “With the player sliding into home and the catcher holding home plate like a first baseman and dirt everywhere – it’s as difficult a call for an umpire as you can have. We had four of the best umpires you can possibly have in that game.”
“First off I was to start by congratulating Methacton,” Duffy told The Pottstown Mercury after the game. “They had a heck of a season. All credit to their pitcher (John Wiedmayer), he pitched a heck of a game.
“But we should still be playing baseball. There’s no doubt that (pitch) didn’t hit him (Lowery), and there’s no doubt he was out (at the plate). It’s a shame for a team that played so hard and worked so hard that we didn’t get a chance to decide the game; that’s what really hurts. Listen, it was a tremendous high school baseball game. It was really unfortunate to be decided by two bad calls.”
Wiedmayer closed out the game in the bottom of the seventh. He threw a complete game, two-hitter with 10 strikeouts.
“I was just feeling it,” he told The Mercury. “I got in a good rhythm and never looked back. My curve ball was on. I was locating the fastball a lot, and ‘Spie’ was calling a great game. I knew it (run support) was bound to happen. The fact they did it in the last inning made it even better.”
PJP used four pitchers who held the Warriors to three total hits – two of which stayed in the infield. Trevor O’Brien started the game while Vinnie Togno, Dan Zurowski and Kevin Shields threw in relief.
Both teams went on to have strong postseason runs to build resumes worthy of the Team of the Decade tournament. Methacton won the District 1-4A championship and reached the PIAA-4A quarterfinals. Pope John Paul won the District 1-3A and PIAA-3A state titles. The Golden Panthers finished 23-5 after a 5-14 season in 2013.
Fans can vote for this matchup and the other semifinal, No. 1 Germantown Academy 2010 vs. No. 5 North Penn 2013, on Twitter @ReporterSports.