WARMINSTER >> Pope John Paul II baseball coach Charles Deluzio dubbed Archbishop Wood a new name after Monday’s meeting.
For a program that’s won four straight District 12 titles — and nine in the last 13 years — with eight players in their lineup holding .300-plus batting averages, the Vikings completely fit the bill.
“We ran into a buzzsaw,” Deluzio said. “We came out two-nothing, we thought we were ready to play. We were ready to play. We came out, bases loaded, up two-nothing, but we have to make plays.”
After a quick two runs from the Golden Panthers, they were cut down immediately. Archbishop Wood carved out nine runs in the bottom of the first inning en route to a 15-5 win over District 1 champion Pope John Paul II in five innings in the first round of the PIAA-4A tournament at home.
With the win, the District 12 champion Vikings advance to the PIAA-4A quarterfinals and will face District 4 runner-up Montoursville, a 7-5 winner over District 11 champion Blue Mountain, on Thursday, time and site TBD.
FINAL — Archbishop Wood 15, Pope John Paul II 5
Vikings put up nine runs in the first en route to a five-inning win.
Archbishop Wood will take the winner of Blue Mountain/Montoursville in the PIAA 4A quarterfinals. pic.twitter.com/4SmQVB5j7h
— Evan Wheaton (@EvanWheaton) June 5, 2023
Down 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning, the Vikings (17-6) put runners in scoring position, Brian Klumpp driving them in with a base hit to tie the game. The bases loaded once more, a player hit by a pitch, wild pitch and a walk all forced in runs to lift the Vikings ahead, 5-2.
Up three runs, junior center fielder Patrick Gozdan doubled Archbishop Wood’s cushion in his first plate appearance, aided by an error to pull in three with one swipe of the bat for an 8-2 advantage.
Joey Gale tripled after, plating one last run to take a 9-2 lead into the second inning, never glancing back from there.
“We had good approaches today, we saw pitches well. Their arms weren’t bad by any means, but we were just hitting the ball, doing our thing,” Gozdan said. “We were due for a game like this, we’ve been struggling recently. But we came out in the bottom of the first and gave back those two runs and then some.”
Gozdan went 2-for-3 with two RBI, three runs and a homer. Braden Kelly (3-for-3, two runs, three RBIs) hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the third, strengthening Archbishop Wood’s grip on the game, 14-3.
Joey Gale (2-for-3, double, run, RBI) and Klumpp (2-for-4, double, two runs, RBI) also recorded multiple hits for the Vikings.
“We’ve worked too hard to let ourselves down,” Gozdan said. “All winter we’ve been throwing with each other, having live ABs, we’re competing with each other and I think it finally showed today how hard we’ve worked.”
Bot 1 | Just like that, it’s back to square one.
With runners in scoring position, Brian Klumpp ties it up for the Vikings with a two-run single of his own.
Archbishop Wood 2, Pope John Paul II 2 pic.twitter.com/Bup70a2gvr
— Evan Wheaton (@EvanWheaton) June 5, 2023
Before the onslaught, Pope John Paul II (17-6) made some noise, scoring its first two runs with ease. The Golden Panthers loaded the bases in the top of the first inning in part by back-to-back players hit by pitches. AJ Diaddezio then belted a line drive to center for the initial 2-0 lead.
Down 11-2 two innings later, Diadezzio once again put the barrel on one and knocked a double, to be driven in by another double by catcher Dylan Simeone right after. Aidan Sgarra hit the third double of the day for Pope John Paul II in the top of the fourth inning, scoring sophomore Luke Terlesky to make it 14-4.
In Brendan Kenning’s final varsity plate appearance, the senior led off the fifth inning with a solo home run over the left-center fence to close out the scoring.
“He went out with a bang,” Deluzio said on Kenning. “First pitch swinging, he hit a bomb.”
Kelly was relieved by Gale after the first out, the latter going the rest of the 4 ⅔ innings. He struck out three while working around eight hits to control the tempo after the initial two runs from Pope John Paul II.
The Golden Panthers won their first Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division title since 2017 this season and reached the PAC semifinals. Pope John Paul II also won its first playoff game since the 2014 state final at the 3A level before taking a 5-3 win over Upper Perkiomen in the District 1-4A Championship.
“We knew in January when we went out to work out that we had something special,” Deluzio said. “The program is in a perfect situation for next year, the year after that and the year after that. We’re going to do some damage again next year. We’ll be right in the mix of the Frontier Division, PAC playoffs, district championship and hopefully we can come back here and play them again.”
Having reached the PIAA 5A semifinals last year, Archbishop Wood is running through 4A competition this season. And with a loaded roster, it’s not hard to see why.
The Vikings have All-Catholic first team selections in Gale and Gozdan, the latter being the Philadelphia Catholic League co-defensive player of the year. J.P. DiGuiseppe and Klumpp are All-Catholic second teamers and Dariel Tiburcio rounds out the list at third team.
“With 16 teams left in the state of Pennsylvania, you’re going to have good teams really no matter what classification you’re at,” Vikings coach Jim DiGuiseppe said. “We just talked to our guys about coming out and playing ball. I’m really, really proud of them.
“We talked about matching. Pope John Paul, they went up 2-0, match them. Try and one-up them. And every time they scored, we matched it or one-upped it. That’s really a credit to our kids.”
Archbishop Wood has won seven divisional titles (1987, 1989, 1990, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015) and three league crowns (1990, 1993, 2015) over the program’s history.
A state title would make for a heftier piece of hardware, though.
“Last year we were successful in 5A,” Gozdan said, noting his club’s switch with Bonner in classification. “We’re trying to do what we’ve been doing with this program, what they’ve been doing the whole time. They have great success here. Now we’re trying to bring a state title home.”
Archbishop Wood 15, Pope John Paul II 5
2B — Diaddezio, Simeone, Sgarra, Gale, Klumpp; 3B — Gale; HR — Kenning, Gozdan, Kelly.