Sharpe edge: Plymouth Whitemarsh senior commands on hill in District 1-6A quarterfinal win over Abington

ABINGTON >> Lincoln Sharpe was just grooving along.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Abington’s coaches called a timeout prior to an at-bat to confer with the hitter while “Mo Money Mo Problems” by The Notorious B.I.G. played over the speakers. On the mound, Sharpe seemed totally unbothered by the pause as the Plymouth Whitemarsh senior left-hander simply bobbed his head to the music until the meeting adjourned.

When the ball was in play, Sharpe was in a pretty good groove there too as the southpaw pitched 6.2 strong innings and added an RBI double as No. 5 PW downed No. 4 Abington 3-1 in the District 1-6A quarterfinals on Friday.

“I haven’t pitched all that much all season, but I came in with a plan to just throw fastballs, stay ahead, try to command and take control of the game and I think that’s exactly what I did,” Sharpe, who threw 102 pitches, said. “By the end there, I was just throwing fastballs trying to get them to hit it because I was running out of pitches and they got a couple nice pieces off me.

“We had Matt Krawitz there to finish it off, so I was never lacking for confidence.”

PW secures a spot in the state tournament for the second time in the last five years and a district semifinal date with No. 1 Spring-Ford, a 13-6 winner over No. 8 Avon Grove. Abington, fresh off its first district playoff win since 1987 following Tuesday’s walk-off against Harry S Truman, will host Quakertown in the playbacks with a chance to reach states.

The difference in Friday’s game, the third between the teams this season after they split their SOL Liberty regular season contests, came down to mostly three things. First was execution, PW cleaner in the field and able to turn that into some early runs. Second was Sharpe, who had his best pitching outing of the season. Lastly was the execution of Sharpe, who bounced back from a 26-pitch first inning to take a shutout into the seventh before finally yielding a run on the cusp of his pitch limit.

“I came back out making sure to just pound the strike zone, I’ve always had a problem with long innings and a lot of pitches per inning so I just wanted to keep throwing strikes,” Sharpe said. “Both times against them, I felt like we were playing from behind so I was really just trying to command the strike zone, keep us ahead, give us a lead and try to hold it the whole time.”

Sharpe, who has a mound presence at 6-foot-5, emerged in the second half of last season as capable hurler and hitter for the Colonials. He took his junior year off from basketball, but returned to the court this winter and was a key contributor in PW’s SOL tournament and District 1-6A championship run although it did slow him down at the start of this baseball season.

Fittingly, it was PW’s last visit to Abington that seemed to help get Sharpe on track throwing the ball. He’s been good at the plate — the senior often serves as the DH when he isn’t pitching — and is one of the Colonials’ top power hitters but everyone was waiting for Sharpe to get back to being Sharpe on the mound.

PW’d been mixing and matching No. 2 starters but heading into the rubber match with the Ghosts and a state playoff berth at stake, coach Chris Manero felt there was an easy choice to make.

“He was in about as much command as a guy can get,” Manero said. “After that first inning, I actually checked the pitch count at one point and I was shocked he was still under 70 pitches. He commanded the zone, his fastball hit its spot today and he used it to set other pitches.

“As coaches, we were basically all on the same page that he was the guy we were going to go to, all his teammates wanted him, they pretty much said it, ‘he’s the guy we want out there.'”

Baseball is a game without a prototypical player, for example, Abington starter Calvin Judge is a righty and probably doesn’t scratch 6-feet tall but he stuck with Sharpe for his four innings of work. If not for a couple of bad breaks behind him, Judge likely would have carried deeper into the game but he and reliever John Hoetzel did plenty to keep their team in the game.

Judge escaped the first inning with just 10 pitches, thanks to a deftly fielded ground that spun into a 1-4-3 double play after two batters reached.

Sharpe had his own issues to get around in the first, allowing a single to Abington’s Michael Judge and walking Logan Moss before striking out Jake Kaplan to end the threat but burning a quarter of his allotted pitches to do so. Despite needing 26 pitches, PW catcher Chase Olszyk wasn’t really too worried and he knew Sharpe was in a good spot.

“He commanded the fastball, was getting ahead of guys, it was the best he’s looked all year,” Olszyk, who made a great play on a pop-up to end the home fifth, said. “He got ahead of guys and finished them off. He still had pretty good command, he was just missing, it wasn’t like he was missing by much so I felt good about it.”

Sharpe helped himself out in the second inning, where PW got all the offense it would need to back the senior up. A dropped pop-up in the infield, one of six Abington errors, allowed Johnny Giordano to reach as the leadoff runner and it would be the right fielder who hustled in all the way from first when Sharpe launched an RBI double to the deepest part of Abington’s yard in the next at-bat.

Colin Brady’s one-out double brought in Sharpe and an RBI groundout by Gabe Caucci — he was only erased by some heads-up defense from Moss and Judge at first — scored Nick DeLucca after the PW outfielder drew a walk prior to Brady’s double.

“It’s a lot of momentum,” Sharpe said. “Coming out of the first inning where I wasn’t great and hitting a double like that, you come out so much more confident. I took that with me throughout the rest of the game.”

Hoetzel had the most resilient inning of the game, the Abington lefty loading the bases in the top of the fifth on a walk, hit and error before he fought back with three consecutive strikeouts to prevent any more damage. Abington coach Bill Degen noted his team has pitched well all season, so he wasn’t surprised his guys were able to keep PW from breaking it open.

It just wasn’t the Ghosts’ day as far as execution and Degan tipped his cap to Sharpe and PW for their ability to make plays and hit spots with pitches.

“They executed and we didn’t,” Degan said. “We probably weren’t as prepared as we thought we were. We’ve pitched well pretty much all season, but it was too little too late for us. We’ve been able to come back all season against teams and I think we maybe thought we had a little more magic today than we did.”

Sharpe really hit a groove from the second through fifth innings, facing one batter over the minimum thanks to some solid defense around him and the lefty picking off a runner at first base. The senior, who said he’s not planning to play in college and will be attending the University of Colorado in Boulder next year, struck out six in total and was an out away from a complete game before a double to Chase Goodson and an RBI single from Mason Kispaugh in the seventh ended his day and brought Krawitz in for the save.

Up next for PW is a trip to Royersford and a contest with a Spring-Ford team that’s been atop the District 1 rankings most of the spring.

“They’re the one seed, so looking forward to playing them,” Olszyk, who was 3-for-4 at the plate, said. “I feel like we hit the ball well today, just had a couple chances – bases loaded with nobody out – we have to get men across there.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh 3, Abington 1
Plymouth Whitemarsh 030 000 0 — 3 9 2
Abington 000 000 1 — 1 5 6
WP: Lincoln Sharpe. LP: Calvin Judge. SV: Matt Krawitz.
3B: A – Chase Goodson. 2B: A – Goodson; PW – Lincoln Sharpe.

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