Early runs, grand slam send Perkiomen School sailing past Hill in PAISAA tournament first round

PENNSBURG >> Perkiomen School entered the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association baseball tournament with plenty of reason to be confident. And on Thursday, that confidence showed immensely.

While the Panthers put enough money in the bank to go the distance in the bottom of the first inning, Perkiomen continued to crank it up and then some. The fifth-seeded Panthers routed No. 12 Hill School, 17-2 in four innings to open the PAISAA tournament at home.

With the win, Perkiomen (12-2-1) advances to the second round of the PAISAA tournament and will travel to No. 4 Friends’ Central on Tuesday, time TBD.

Three runs in the first frame were enough to ensure Perkiomen would never trail, but a 13-run explosion in the third inning was the exclamation point to make it an early day.

Four of those runs were driven in by Avery Smith in one shot. Already up 9-2 with the bases loaded, Smith sent one over the left fence to create a 13-2 advantage and put the game within the 10-run mercy rule range.

“I was mostly hunting fastballs. They were throwing a lot of fastballs early,” Smith said. “Even later on they were throwing fastballs, so I was just looking for those I’d say.”

Smith went 2-for-3 with another RBI to go with his four-run bomb. Perkiomen collectively recorded 14 hits and 16 RBIs up and down its lineup.

Perkiomen pitcher Henry Clausell winds back to deliver to Hill School from the mound during the opening round of the PAISAA baseball tournament at Perkiomen School on May 18. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Grouped with Smith’s grand slam in the third inning was a two RBI single from CC Catania — who held a .522 batting average last year — as well as a double on a pop fly from Henry Clausell (3-for-3, run, three RBIs) to score him.

The floodgates opened wider with RBIs from Isaac Pena (three runs, two RBIs) and Erick Diaz (2-for-4, two runs, three RBIs), along with runners brought in on an error and fielder’s choice. Six different batters recorded multiple hits for the Panthers altogether.

Following a sequence consisting of an RBI from Clausell, a run scored on a fielder’s choice and line drive from Joan Sanchez for an RBI to go up 3-0 off the rip, the Blues (6-14) immediately responded in the top of the second inning. Colin Matthews hit a one-out double and Cole Albert belted a line drive to score him and cut the game, 3-1.

“I thought our response in the first after they went up was good,” Hill coach Ed Turner said. “That’s what we’ve done all season, not get too intimidated by a team and the way to respond is to get a run or two back. Or at least put the ball in play hard, let the other team know we’re here.”

Clausell — who hit six home runs and had 29 RBIs last season — gave Perkiomen a three-run edge once more in the bottom of the second inning with a base hit to score Pena.

Down 4-1, Will Reger came home on a fielder’s choice to once again bring the Blues within two runs. Hill recorded three hits in its final game of the season and finished with a 5-5 record in Mid-Atlantic Prep League play ahead of the PAISAA tournament.

“I admire this group’s attitude and effort. I really admire how hard they worked and how much they’ve given their effort all season long,” Turner said. “It’s disappointing to go out like this because we got whooped today, but all season long they trusted us to put ourselves in the best position to win games.”

Hill School’s Will Reger scores a run for the Blues against Perkiomen during the opening round of the PAISAA baseball tournament at Perkiomen School on May 18. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

The win for Perkiomen illustrated the reason for a decision made prior to the start of the season. For the first time, the Panthers are playing completely independent after winning 27 championships across the Keystone, Tri-County and Penn-Jersey Leagues.

“We’ve had some good teams over the years, but at some point in 27 years, somebody has to beat you,” said Perkiomen coach Ken Baker, now in his 33rd season at the helm of the program. “It kept getting worse, the gap between us and everybody else.”

Seeking a tougher non-conference schedule with the desire to face higher velocity and deeper depths of talent on opposing mounds, the price would be to play less games.

Normally, Perkiomen would have around 20 games in by this point in the season. Five short of that mark, the reward has been exposure to more competition. That, and the wealth of confidence that comes with contending against heavier hitters.

“Even though we’ve played less games, it’s versus good competition every time,” Smith said.

Clausell earned the win on the mound with five strikeouts and three hits over three innings, the first of the game being a 1-2-3 frame with two batters fanned. Nate Romberger closed out with two strikeouts for the Panthers.

Just a day prior to the opening round of the PAISAA tournament, Perkiomen took an 8-6 win over top-seeded Springside Chestnut Hill.

With both clubs on the same side of the bracket, another round between them may be in the works for a ticket to the PAISAA championship.

“It definitely gives us a confidence boost,” Smith said. “It shows us we’re able to beat everyone.”

Perkiomen School 17, Hill School 2 (4 inn.)

Hill 011 0 — 2 3 3
Perkiomen 31(13) X — 17 14 1

Perkiomen Hill
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Catania 4 2 2 2 Reger 2 1 0 0
Diaz 4 2 2 3 Grosso 1 0 0 0
Clausell 3 1 3 3 Palmieri 2 0 0 1
Romberger 1 1 0 0 White 2 0 0 0
Lopez 1 2 0 0 Mattis 1 1 1 0
Smith 3 1 2 5 Winston 1 0 1 0
Mayza 3 2 2 0 Fleck 1 0 0 0
Sanchez 2 2 2 1 Moore 1 0 0 0
Feulner 2 0 0 0 Muto 1 0 0 0
Pena 2 3 1 2 Albert 2 0 1 1
Pavlek 1 0 0 0
Totals 25 17 14 16 Totals 15 2 3 2

2B — Clausell, Diaz, Mattis; HR — Smith.

Grosso 2.1 11 13 10 4 3
Albert 0.2 3 4 1 1 0
Clausell 3 3 2 1 0 5
Romberger 1 0 0 0 1 2
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