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Pope John Paul II baseball outlasts Upper Perkiomen, 5-3 in District 1-4A Championship

The Pope John Paul II baseball team poses with championship medals at home plate after defeating Upper Perkiomen, 5-3 in the District 1-4A final at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on May 26. (Evan Wheaton - MediaNews Group)

PLYMOUTH >> It’s been a good, long time since the Pope John Paul II baseball team experienced championship stakes.

This past Tuesday marked just the first playoff game the Golden Panthers won since the 2014 state final. But it didn’t take long to get the next.

In a showdown against Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division foe Upper Perkiomen in the District 1-4A championship, Pope John Paul II banked enough runs early to outlast the Indians, the latter rallying down the stretch.

The top-seeded Golden Panthers defeated No. 3 Upper Perkiomen, 5-3 to be crowned District 1-4A champions at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Friday.

With the win, Pope John Paul II (17-5) clinches a trip to the PIAA tournament where it awaits its pairing with the eventual District 12 champion. The Indians won their first playoff game since 2009 this season a round earlier and ended the year 11-11.

“This is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. It’s amazing for this program,” Golden Panthers third baseman Chase Frantz said. “We’ve worked hard for this since the start of the year and last year. It’s a great feeling. It’s surreal.”

Frantz led Pope John Paul II at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs. The Keystone State Bomber product opened the scoring in the first inning with his first hit of the day, a base hit to center field to score Frank Dimaio to go up 1-0, never trailing from there.

Holding onto a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, Frantz’s second hit came with the bases loaded, the sophomore belting one out to center for an insurance run to bookend the scoring.

Pope John Paul II first baseman Brendan Kenning, back, hugs Golden Panthers coach Charles Deluzio, front, after defeating Upper Perkiomen, 5-3 in the District 1-4A baseball final at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on May 26. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Pope John Paul II plated enough runs over the first three innings to go the distance. Following Frantz’s initial RBI in the opening frame, the Golden Panthers put runners on the corners in the second and at the top of their order, Dimaio drove in the lead man with a line drive to right field for a 2-0 edge.

“We started off working walks. We took them deep into counts and then big swings from myself, Frankie (Dimaio), big swings from everybody,” Frantz said on his club’s early production at the plate. “We came to play and executed our jobs.”

From left to right, Pope John Paul II seniors Brendan Chycota, Brendan Kenning and Frank Dimaio pose with their championship trophy after defeating Upper Perkiomen, 5-3 in the District 1-4A baseball final at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on May 26. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Isaac Bugman (2-for-4) cut Upper Perkiomen’s deficit in half, 2-1 in the top of the third inning with an RBI single, but Pope John Paul II doubled down with two runs in the bottom half. A bunt from AJ Diaddezio loaded the bases with no outs and on a full count, Dylan Simeone worked a walk to force in a run for a 3-1 advantage.

Blake High drove in another run with a line drive to take 4-1 lead — that three-run cushion being the largest of the day — before a second runner was beaten at the plate to limit the damage to two runs.

“They gave us a hard time all year. They have the last three years,” Simeone said on Upper Perkiomen. “We definitely fight. We see fastballs and kill ‘em like we have all year. Anything else, we work. If they try and bunt, if they try and pull someone out, we just ride with it. Whatever works.

“The lineup stays hot, up, down, bottom, doesn’t matter if Billy (Fitzgerald) is hot or BK (Brendan Kenning, 2-for-4, run) is hot or whatever. We’re always picking each other up and pushing each other.”

High earned the win on the mound with three strikeouts and five hits scattered over 3.2 innings of work. Luke Terlesky pitched two innings of relief with three strikeouts and two hits while Diaddezio closed out with one strikeout.

Neither team recorded a single extra base hit, but neither went down in order as well, both clubs reaching base in each inning.

Upper Perkiomen catcher Brody Weiss, left, beats Pope John Paul II’s Aidan Sgarra, right, at the plate to prevent a run during the District 1-4A baseball final at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on May 26. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

The Indians caught momentum in the fourth inning, cutting the game to one run. A base hit from Jack Schamm and a pair of walks loaded the bases with two outs for Upper Perkiomen. From there, Kyle Mazzie hit a line drive to center and a walk was made after, two runs in succession to close the gap 4-3.

A walk and reach on error to lead off the top of the fifth saw runners on first and second with no outs for the Indians, the drum continuing to pound as Upper Perkiomen began to surge late. But a pair of strikeouts from Terlesky and a flyout kept the Golden Panthers’ heads above water.

“We’re up 4-1 and I’m like, ‘They aren’t going to quit.’ They were that close. Frank does a great job,” Pope John Paul II coach Charles Deluzio said on Upper Perkiomen coach Frank Mercon. “Their kids don’t quit, they play hard. Just throw strikes, make plays, make plays, make plays.”

Having dropped from 5A to 4A for the first time, the Indians missed the PAC Final Four, but were able to reach their first District 1 final since 2006 — a championship won by Upper Perkiomen, 8-2 over Sun Valley.

Both squads split regular season meetings. Upper Perkiomen won at home, 5-3 on April 20 before Pope John Paul II returned the favor, 3-1 at home as well. The Golden Panthers also won the PAC Frontier for the first time since 2017 before qualifying for the PAC Final Four.

“We have to survive our league,” Mercon said. “We are the second smallest school in the PAC. They’re the smallest school in the PAC. We’re playing in what I would argue is the best league in the state of Pennsylvania against incredibly good teams.”

Upper Perkiomen’s Kyle Mazzie slides into third base against Pope John Paul II during the District 1-4A baseball final at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on May 26. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Indians ace Evan Wittig pitched his club’s way to victory against No. 2 Holy Ghost Prep in the District 1-4A semifinals on Tuesday. The senior struck out two while working around five hits and two runs in a complete game.
Across the arms of Braden Rieg, Jack Schramm and Cole Pierce, Pope John Paul II was struck out just twice on the day.

“We’re returning almost everybody. We’re incredibly strong and young,” Mercon said. “We’re getting the entire pitching staff back except for Evan (Wittig), the entire offense and guys who will step in. The place wasn’t there this year. It’ll be there next year.”

From left to right, Pope John Paul II’s Aidan Sgarra, Noah Brandt and TJ Boccella pose with their championship trophy after defeating Upper Perkiomen, 5-3 in the District 1-4A baseball final at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on May 26. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

As a PAC semifinalist and Frontier champion with a little more bling for its buck, Pope John Paul II will continue its single elimination postseason beyond the District 1 field as the PIAA tournament unfolds.

“One game at a time. Just have to win the next game we play and keep on moving,” Frantz said. “Obviously the goal is to bring home that state title.”

Pope John Paul II 5, Upper Perkiomen 3


Upper Perkiomen0012000371
Pope John Paul II112001581
Upper Perk PJP
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Sands 3 0 1 1 F. Dimaio 1 1 1 1
Bugman 4 0 2 1 Fitzgerald 2 0 0 0
Kranich 2 0 0 0 Sgarra 1 0 0 0
Rieg 4 1 1 0 Kenning 4 1 2 0
Weiss 2 1 1 0 Frantz 3 0 2 2
Graf 3 0 0 0 Deforge 0 0 0 0
Williams 3 0 0 0 Diaddezio 4 1 1 0
Pierce 2 0 0 0 Simeone 2 0 0 1
Mazzie 3 1 2 1 Boccella 2 1 0 0
Terlesky 2 0 0 0
High 2 0 1 1
Smith 0 0 0 0
L. Demaio 1 1 1 0
Sergio 0 0 0 0
Totals 26 3 7 3 Totals 24 5 8 5
Upper Perk
Rieg 2 3 3 2 3 1
Schramm 3 3 2 2 3 0
Pierce 1 2 0 0 1 1
High 3.2 5 3 3 4 3
Terlesky 2 2 0 0 1 3
Diaddezio 1.1 0 0 0 1 1



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