Wallenpaupack Area captures first-ever D2 baseball crown
Previous games that afternoon postponed Paupack’s quest for the PIAA District II AAAAA Championship by nearly an hour.
However, under overcast skies with a slight breeze and sporadic spattering showers, the Purple and White took to PNC Field for a showdown with the Crestwood Comets.
The Wallenpaupack lads punched their ticket to the big game by earning an opening round bye and then shutout Pittston Area in the semifinals.
The boys from Mountaintop dispatched with North Pocono during the first round and then claimed their chance at the dance following their win over Valley West.
As the top seed, the Buckhorns took up residence in the home dugout and opted to send senior Austin Gilpin to the hill.
The Comets, originally seeded second, would get the first at-bats and, not surprisingly, sent junior Colin Macko to the mound.
One Small Step
Gilpin gave up a lead-off single to Brett Caladie, but rapidly settled in and set two down swinging and got the next one looking.
While the first three Bucks in the batter’s box, Morgan Theobald; Tyler Kirsten; and Derrick Vosburg; all made contact with the ball, a pop-up, a ground out, and fly to left sent them down in order.
It was three-up and three-down in the top of the second as well for Crestwood.
With two out in the bottom of the inning, Mitchell Guerrieri walked, then moved to third on a single by Chris Brindle.
Guerrieri sprung from third base on a wild pitch and dove head-long for the plate, almost coming up short, but got Paupack on the board before a ground out ended the inning.
And so, the Bucks led 1-0 after two.
“Our magic number was four,” said Head Coach Todd Schmalzle.
“If we could get out to an early lead I was confident our pitchers would be able to hold them off.”
One Giant Leap
AG notched two more Ks in the top of the third, yielded a single, then sent another back to the dugout swinging.
While a lead-off single from Izaiah Santiago got the Bucks on the bags, three outs in a row left him stranded on second after a successful steal.
The Comets threatened in the fourth but couldn’t plate any runs.
When the Buckhorns took up the bats they added some insurance.
Max Alessi walked to led off the bottom of the fourth and then Tyler Stevens came in as his runner.
A sacrifice bunt by Gilpin moved Stevens to second and a he advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Guerrieri walked, but an RBI groundout by Brindle got Stevens home, moving Guerrieri to third in the process, then scored on a one-bagger by Sands.
A double by Santiago moved Sands to the hot corner before a walk to Theobald loaded the bases.
That was it for Macko. Senior Matt Trimmer stepped to the rubber but didn’t fare much better. His first pitch went wild and in came Sands. Santiago and Theobald both moved up as well.
Kirsten got his bat on the next toss, driving in both Santiago and Theobald.
While Trimmer closed the inning with a K, the Buckhorns now held a commanding 6-0 lead at the end of the fourth inning.
Holding the Fort
Gilpin gave up one run to Crestwood in the fifth and started the sixth, but came out after yielding a pair of two-out base knocks.
His stint on the mound lasted 89 pitches, giving up four hits and a walk as well but also adding nine strikeouts to his record.
Guerrieri came in as relief but ended up becoming the closer after striking out the final batter of the sixth.
Guerrieri chalked up another K in the top of the seventh. He fielded the next pitch, a grounder, and completed the throw to Brindle to put down the second Comet batter.
A 1-1 grounder was sent the way of second base, picked up by Ty Holbert, tossed to Brindle, beat the runner, and secured the win for Wallenpaupack.
Freshman Izaiah “The Iceman” Santiago led the Paupack bats by going 3-for-3. Tyler Kirsten had a pair of RBIs while Brindle and Sands each got one. Santiago, Sands, and Guerrieri each stole a base.
“Coming in we just wanted to try to play our game and give it the best we could,” Guerrieri said.
“Winning districts was our goal last season but we came up short. It’s something we started working towards since freshman year us seniors and all the hard work finally paid off.”
“We’re pumped and focused now on states,” Gilpin stated.
Paupack will duke it out with the fourth-place team that emerges from the District I bracket. That will be either Upper Moreland or Upper Merion depending on the outcome of that game on May 30 (today.)
That match-up will take place on June 5 at a place to yet be determined. Should the Bucks prevail, it would put them within three wins of a state title.
“It’s certainly going to be a challenge,” said Schmalzle. “Our pitching gives us a shot and our boys want to win.”