Article by Kurt Bopp, The Sentinel/Photograph by Jason Malmont, The Sentinel
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DILLSBURG – It only took Mechanicsburg five innings to clinch a spot in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals.
For the seventh time this season, the Wildcats won via mercy rule as they beat Franklin Towne Charter, 10-0, in five innings on Monday at Northern High School. It was Mechanicsburg’s 11th win in 12 games and seventh straight.
The Wildcats (19-5) scored two runs in each of the five innings, while the pitching of John Thompson and Joey Bishop limited the Coyotes (5-16) to only four hits. Despite FTC’s 5-15 record entering the game, the Wildcats didn’t take them lightly.
“You know how it goes sometimes,” Mechanicsburg coach Clay McAllister said. “If you don’t make a couple of plays here, you don’t swing the bat early on real good, then you end up getting yourself in a tight spot.”
The only trouble the Wildcats ran into was in the very first inning. Thompson retired the first two batters, but George Klein singled. Klein advanced to second on an error on a ball put into play by Aron Litostanski. Tyler Landis then singled to deep right field, but Klein got thrown out at the plate.
In the bottom of the inning, Mechanicsburg led off with a flyout to center, but shortly after that, Matt Miller scored from second on an RBI single by Jimmy Spanos. Spanos has recorded a hit in every playoff game this year for the Wildcats.
Andrew Spanos came in as a courtesy runner and stole second. Alex Holbert flew out, but Justin Tate singled to drive in Spanos for a 2-0 lead.
After an inning in which Thompson got a pair of strikeouts, Mechanicsburg doubled its lead in the bottom of the second.
Ryan Greene doubled to left-center to drive in Jeff Deveney from first. “I feel like if I was a smarter baserunner, I should’ve had a triple on that; … I’ve got to learn some more things here,” Greene said. “The double was a great hit I had, and I’m glad it opened things up for our team and helped us keep going to … get us our win in a couple innings.”
Andy Williams singled to drive in Greene for a 4-0 lead before a pop-up and a line out ended the inning.
In the third, Thompson struck out Angel Lazu, forced Klein to ground out, then struck out Litostanski in Thompson’s final inning of work for the day. By only going three innings, McAllister said, Thompson is eligible to start in Thursday’s game. Thompson is now 10-1 with 63 strikeouts on the year.
After Alex Holbert led off the third for the Wildcats with a groundout, Tate singled and Brock Athey walked. Both advanced on a wild pitch to Bobby Mentzer. Mentzer then singled to drive in Tate, and Deveney followed with a groundout to score Athey.
Bishop relieved Thompson in the fourth inning, and was just as effective. Tyler Landis reached base on an error, but the next two batters popped up. Matt Foley singled, but Bishop got Billy Carter to ground out to short.
“They’re very impressive,” FTC coach Kyle Riley said. “I thought their pitching was excellent. Good velocity, and they changed it up with some nice curveballs here and there. Overall, I was really impressed with them, especially with their offensive output.”
The Wildcats kept rolling in the bottom of the fourth. After Williams flew out to start the inning, Matt Miller and Jimmy Spanos walked. Andrew Spanos came in again to run for Jimmy.
The runners advanced to second and third on a passed ball, setting up Holbert’s two-RBI single and an 8-0 Wildcat lead.
“They hit a lot of balls up the middle,” Riley said. “You can just tell they’re very well-coached and that they buy into the program that the coaches are putting forward.”
After a one-two-three inning in the top of the fifth, Joe Hennessey led off with a pinch-hit triple to left-center for the Wildcats. Greene singled to drive him in. And after a fly out to center, Miller singled to move Greene to second. Both advanced on a passed ball, setting up runners at second and third. The Coyotes chose to intentionally walk Jimmy Spanos, bringing up Holbert with the bases loaded and only one down.
The center fielder came through with a single to right to drive in Greene and end the game.
“I thought it would be a little bit more of a challenge than what we had,” Greene said. “But I’m really glad we came out with the win.”
McAllister said he was proud of his team, and said he’s just happy his players are still in it. The Wildcats will play again Thursday at a site and date yet to be determined.
Greene – who finished 2 for 3 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored – hopes his team comes out even more ready on Thursday.
“I hope we actually come out more prepared next game, and play even harder than we did here,” Greene said. “Because the next team we play is probably going to be a better team than what we had here, so I hope we come out with more power and energy.”
PIAA Class AAA First Round
at Northern High School, Dillsburg
WILDCATS 10, COYOTES 0 (5 innings)
Franklin Towne Charter 000 00 — 0 4 0
Mechanicsburg 222 22 — 10 12 3
Markus Malave, lf, 3/0/0; Angel Lazu, cf, 3/0/0; George Klein, c, 3/0/1; Aron Litostanski, 1b, 2/0/0; Tyler Landis, rf, 2/0/1; Matt Kubacki, 3b, 2/0/0; Bobby Lopez, 2b, 2/0/0; Matt Foley, dh, 2/0/1; Billy Carter, ss, 2/0/1. TOTALS 21/0/4.
Andy Williams, rf, 4/0/1; Matt Miller, 2b, 3/2/2; Jimmy Spanos, c, 2/0/1; Andrew Spanos, cr, 0/2/0; Alex Holbert, cf, 4/0/2; Justin Tate, 2/1/2; Brock Athey, 3b, 2/1/0; Bobby Mentzer, dh, 3/0/1; Jeff Deveney, 1b, 1/1/0; Joe Hennessy, ph, 1/1/1; Ryan Greene, lf, 3/2/2. TOTALS 26/10/12.
Doubles: M - Greene. Triples: M - Hennessy. RBI: M - Williams, J. Spanos, Holbert 3, Tate, Deveney, Mentzer, Greene 2. Franklin Towne Charter pitching: Damian Padilla (L) 3.1 inn., 8 runs, 8 earned, 7 hits, 0 SO, 4 BB; Aron Litostanski: 1 inn., 2 runs, 2 earned, 5 hits, 0 SO, 1 BB. Mechanicsburg pitching: John Thompson (W) 3 inn., 0 runs, 0 earned, 3 hits, 5 SO, 0 BB; Joey Bishop: 2 inn., 0 runs, 0 earned, 1 hit, 0 SO, 0 BB.
Article by Ryan Loy, The Patriot-News
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It took Mechanicsburg just five innings Monday to defeat Franklin Towne Charter, 10-0, in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs, but the Wildcats gained a bonus prize even earlier in the game.
With a comfortable lead after three innings, the Wildcats replaced ace pitcher John Thompson — meaning the sophomore right-hander is fully eligible to pitch Thursday in Mechanicsburg’s second-round matchup. Thompson threw just 35 pitches in three scoreless innings before exiting the game to rest for the Wildcats’ next contest, much to the delight of Mechanicsburg head coach Clay McAllister.
“I think it’s big,” McAllister said of Thompson’s availability for Thursday. “It’s also big that he threw well today. He threw it where he wanted to throw it.”
Thompson showed tremendous accuracy, throwing 28 of his 35 pitches for strikes.
Franklin Towne Charter’s 5-15 record entering Monday may have provided more incentive for Mechanicsburg to go right at the Coyotes, but Thompson said his game plan is always to make opponents put the ball in play.
“I felt great out there,” Thompson said. “The confidence of having a great team behind you really helps.”
Not only did the Mechanicsburg players execute in the field, they showed tremendous consistency at the plate. All 10 Wildcat players who batted in the game either scored a run or recorded an RBI, as Mechanicsburg scored two runs in each of the five innings.
The Wildcats’ No. 9 hitter, Ryan Greene, led the team by going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI. Meanwhile, cleanup hitter Alex Holbert knocked in three runs, including one in the fifth to enforce the mercy rule and end the game.
Despite the apparent mismatch on paper entering Monday’s game, McAllister said he was happy with how his team executed.
“I thought our kids were relaxed like they usually are, yet they stay focused and ready to go,” McAllister said. “I didn’t worry about overlooking them.”
Franklin Towne Charter head coach Kyle Riley said the Mechanicsburg players appeared well-coached in how to perform on the field and in the dugout. Riley said he “didn’t see one ego” on the Wildcats entire team, as they showed a team-first mentality.
Riley said Mechanicsburg’s approach to the game is evident in the way it scored its runs against the Coyotes. He said the Wildcat hitters don’t look to hit home runs or be heroes with long drives. Instead, they play fundamental small-ball, which Riley said makes them a dangerous team moving forward.
“You don’t have to worry about teams that are out there trying to crush every ball or strikeout every batter,” Riley said. “The teams you have to worry about are the ones that know how to play situational ball.”