Wallenpaupack Area advances to the PIAA Class 5A quarterfinals
The Wallenpaupack Area varsity baseball team took its first steps toward a possible state championship on Monday.
The Buckhorns squared off with Upper Merion, the third seed from District I, in a PIAA Class 5A first round tournament battle at Marywood University.
Under overcast skies, the Buckhorns rallied in the fifth inning after trailing the Vikings 1-0 and eventually posted a thrilling 3-1 win.
The District Two champs, occupying the home dugout, opted to send senior Aaron Husson to the mound.
And, the fireballing senior righty wasted no time getting to work.
Husson sent the first two batters down on strikes, gave up a pair of walks, but then retired the side with another K.
Matt Choi went to the hill for Upper Marion, also striking out his first batter and then walked Tyler Kirsten who moved to second on a ground out by Derrick Vosburg.
Choi then walked Max Alessi but Kirsten was tagged out on a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
The Vikings batted into a ground out to start the second before Husson fanned the next two batters.
1-2-3 and the Bucks were up again but still found no love.
Mitch Guerrieri and Adam Sands walked, but Choi sent two down on strikes as well and after two innings it was still 0-0.
Husson gave up a walk to start the third inning with a walk to John Batten then struck out the next batter.
A wild pitch to Choi allowed Batten to reach third base, who then scored when Choi grounded out.
Another grounder to Chris Brindle at first stopped the Vikings’ advance but they now held a 1-0 lead over the Bucks.
Things remained the same through the middle of the fifth inning, but then the Deer awakened.
The rally started with a 1-out walk to Morgan Theobald. Following a fly out, he moved into scoring position after stealing 2nd on a 1-0 pitch to Vosburg.
With a full count, Vosburg then connected for a line drive to left, allowing Theobald to score. Tie game 1-1, but there was more in store.
Choi hit his pitching cap and yielded the mound to Mike Hutchinson to face Alessi. Vosburg moved to second on a pass ball and was then driven in by the 2-2 stand-up triple Alessi planted mere feet from the right-center wall.
Bucks up, 2-1.
Ty Holbert came in as a courtesy runner for Alessi but didn’t stay on the bag long. Austin Gilpin singled on a 1-1 pitch to bring him home and the score now jumped to 3-1.
A fly out stymied the Paupack rally, but the Bucks had the lead and a new burst of momentum.
Husson made it through two outs in the top of the sixth before he too maxed out his pitch count.
Gilpin moved to the mound while Holbert came in at second for Kirsten, now guarding the hot corner.
Gilpin posted a K to start his term on the hill and put Upper Marion on hold for another Paupack chance.
Sadly, that would be it for the Purple & White offense.
In the bottom of the sixth, a trio of groundouts put them back on the defense before they could warm the benches.
The Vikings tried again in the top of the seventh. Gilpin sent the lead-off batter down looking. He got the next one swinging.
Two outs, the bat found the 2-2 pitch but it went straight to Brindle who easily beat him to the bag to end the game.
Over & Out
While Alessi’s RBI got them the game, Theobald’s steal was the catalyst.
In just a few short weeks, the Marywood field will be his new home. With some of his collegiate coaches in the stands, Theo, one of the top base stealers in the league, gave his new mentors a preview of what hopefully be a successful career with the Pacers.
“It was my first time playing on the field and it was really cool to have my coaches there,” said Theobald.
“We were down 1-0 but we stayed fired up and never gave up. I felt good on base, got a good jump and we built on that. Vosburg brought me in and we just kept it moving from there.”
Husson threw 100 pitches over 5 2/3 innings. He gave up two hits, an error, and three walks but struck out eight. Gilpin massed three K’s in 1 1/3 innings over 27 pitches.
“Once again, our pitching staff did a tremendous job,” commented Head Coach Todd Schmalzle.
“We started out a little flat, but strung a few hits together in the fifth and got back into gear.
“I thought Upper Merion threw very well too. We didn’t think they would be easy to hit off but they were tougher than anticipated.”
Paupack's win advances the team to the 5A quarterfinals. The Bucks are slated to face District I top seed Marple Newtown from Delaware County on Thursday at Parkland.