Wallenpaupack Area's varsity baseball team captured a hard-fought 1-0 decision on the road at Western Wayne
Fair weather and the visiting Western Wayne Wildcats rolled up on the shores of the Big Lake Friday afternoon as the Buckhorns looked to make a gain on their 3-8 league record and give recognition to their senior players as well.
Their last tangle with the Wildcats ended with the Bucks taking a 4-1 loss at Varden.
Throwing for the Purple and White was frosh righty Mitch Guerrieri getting in his fourth start of the season.
While he gave up a lead-off single, a pop-up and a caught foul easily put down the next two batters, then, to make things tidy on the diamond, the Bucks forced out the lead-off runner at second to retire the side.
A pop-up sent down the first Paupack batter then Kyle Johnson managed two strikeouts against the Bucks in the first, allowing only Dave Ortiz to reach base on a 2-out single.
Guerrieri tallied his first K of the night in the top of the second, allowing a single and a walk, but thanks to good fielding the Buckhorns prevented any Wildcat runs.
Similarly, it was a 1-2-3 stand at the plate for Paupack with Johnson picking up another strikeout as well.
Giving up a walk and a single in the third, Guerrieri once more saw help from his fielders while Johnson chalked up another K and with help from the Wildcats field kept the scoreboard clean for another inning.
On The Board
The Buckhorn fielders got some rest in the top of the fourth.
Guerrieri sent the first Western Wayne batter down looking then banged out two more Ks to retire the side in order.
He got some help from the Paupack offense when Ortiz was hit by a pitch and became a 1-out runner in the bottom of the inning.
Ortiz moved into scoring position on a single from Mike Henry and then came home on a fielder’s choice by Dave Eckert that forced out Henry.
A groundout ended the inning but the Bucks now had a 1-0 lead and with over half the game behind them would work hard to protect the lead.
Guerrieri gave up just a walk in the fifth, but Johnson wasn’t giving up either. He sent one down looking, delivered a 1-0 pitch that resulted in a ground out, then finished the inning with another strikeout.
Johnson singled as the lead-off batter in the top of the sixth, but Joe Budnovitch easily handled a hit to him at third, tossed to Alec Babyak at second for the force, who then connected with Chris Brindle at first to turn the double play.
Another grounder to Babyak retired the side but the Bucks got no love in the sixth either as they went down in order.
A well needed win and a shutout on the line, Guerrieri went to the mound once more.
The first batter went back to the dugout on strikes, the next took a swing at the first pitch and fouled out, finally he delivered a 1-and-1 pitch that was hit to Aaron Gilpin at shortstop, who stopped the bouncer and fired it to Brindle to make the out at first.
Bucks win 1-0.
“I threw a lot of fastballs,” Guerrieri noted after the game. “But, I worked the curve ball and knuckleball in there, too.
“I didn’t even realize I struck out the side in the fourth until someone told me when we got back in the dugout. That pumped me up and made me want to go the distance.”
While a plebe might have stolen the show, the senior class players did get some of the spotlight in a pre-game ceremony as well as on the field.
Dan Skibber and Sam Vargas were sidelined with injuries, Dave Ortiz scored the lone run of the game; Alec Babyak and Joe Budnovitch made key plays defensively; Mike Henry, the catcher, tallied one hit and gave leadership from behind the plate; and Nick Denniston, held down things in right field and kept the team motivated when batting.
Almost uniformly the seniors shared the same feelings about each other and their days on the field.
Nearly all of them have been playing together since Little League All-Stars when they were 8 or 9 years old and they all have had a lot of fun playing together for almost ten years.
Although seven seniors will be making their exit shortly, young talent will be following in their wake to keep the Buckhorns going strong in the future.