BOYERTOWN >> It took an extra year of waiting, but Neshaminy defended its crown.
Led by the brilliant pitching performance of junior pitcher Liam Del Guerico, 11th-seeded Neshaminy repeated as District 1 Class 6A champions with a 6-1 victory over fifth-seeded Boyertown at Bear Stadium.
“Going back-to-back is one of the best feelings in the world, no one else can recreate it but us,” said senior Zack Bowman, one of five key holdovers from Neshaminy’s 2019 championship team.
Del Guerico allowed just four hits and two walks in 6.2 innings of work before handing the ball off to Matt Mays for the final out of the game.
He used his “gangster” curveball, learned when he was 12 years old watching videos of current Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer, to give Bears’ hitters fits, striking out 12 batters.
“I wish I could have closed it out there, get the picture and stuff but I think I had a great performance and we had a good team win,” said Del Guerico, another holdover from the 2019 team.
“I was more of a role player guy (in 2019). I was there in case anyone messed up,” he added. “I didn’t get as many innings in the playoffs as I’d like to but I knew I was a part of that team, had a great experience, and to be able to carry it over to junior year is awesome.”
Neshaminy struck for two runs in the first inning off Boyertown senior righthander Cole Hertzler, a Liberty University recruit. After a single by junior Gaige Ryan and RBI single from Bowman, junior Brendan Raven knocked in a run with an RBI double.
They tacked on a run in the third on a wild pitch and two more in the fourth on a two-out RBI double by senior Josh Martoccio.
In Boyertown’s quarterfinal win against West Chester Henderson, Hertzler dominated after a five-run second inning, but he never found his groove Thursday. He allowed five runs (three earned) in four innings on six hits and four walks.
“He was a little amped up. It was a big game,” Boyertown coach Todd Moyer said of Hertzler. “It was the first real pressure game he’s been involved in. He elevated a couple change-ups and they hit ‘em and we didn’t score any runs to get him back in the game right away. They got momentum and that’s the kind of game it is.”
Del Guerico kept the Bears hitless throw 2.2 innings before junior Colin Eisenhard broke up the no-hit bit. Hertzler hit a solo home run in the fourth to give Boyertown it’s only other run.
Senior Ethan Martin hit a double in the top of the sixth and junior Evan Hetrick hit a triple with two outs in the seventh for the Bears’ only other hits.
“He’s a good high school pitcher,” Moyer said of Del Guerico, an Army recruit. “I tell our guys all the time, if you throw a curveball for a strike at will, you’re a good high school pitcher. When he got behind, he came back and threw good curveballs for strikes and that’s tough hitting. That’s tough to do.”
Del Guerico’s performance was the continuation of what the Neshaminy has done all postseason, holding opponents to a total of six runs in four games.
“Best pitching staff in the state of Pennsylvania in my opinion,” Del Guerico said. “We’ve got guys who can go out and dominate every single week, every single pitch.”
Neshaminy will face the District 11 runner-up in the first round of the PIA tournament Monday, while Boyertown will play District 12 runner-up Central at Villanova Ballpark in Plymouth.
The Bears’ last foray into the PIAA tournament in 2016 ended in a state championship.
“We got over that hurdle three games ago. We knew we were going to play next week,” Moyer said. “It’s just a shame we didn’t get that first place medal. Our biggest goal is still in front of us, so we’ll see what we can do.”
Bowman, Martoccio, Del Guerico and seniors Chris James and Matt Edwards were the only key pieces back from the 2019 Neshaminy squad this spring.
Another district title wasn’t immediately on his horizon, but even as an 11-seed entering the tournament Bowman knew this group was special.
“If you told me at the beginning of this year that we were going to get this far, I would have said no,” Bowman said. “But we really snowballed on the wins, got on a hot streak going into the tournament and just gelled, played well as a team.”
NOTES >> Ryan (2-for-4) and Bowman (2-for-3) had multi-hit days for Neshaminy. … Ethan Ferraro gave up an unearned run in 1.1 innings of relief and Tyler Sharayko tossed 1.2 scoreless innings of relief for Boyertown.