The Buckhorns ended up one game short of the state finals
Wallenpaupack Area’s quest for a PIAA 5A title came to an abrupt end this past Monday night.
Back at Marywood University, where they had posted their initial win in the state playoffs just one week prior, the winds brought by Whitehall deflated the Paupack sails.
In spite of a valiant effort by the Purple & White, they ultimately yielded the field to District IX champions who advanced to the state finals at Penn State University on Thursday.
The final score was 6-2.
Already having experienced success on the Pacers’ field, Paupack skipper Todd Schmalzle opted to go with the same defense that had won the opening round match-up against Upper Marion.
That meant senior Aaron Husson would be making his final start as a Buckhorn. Although he couldn’t conjure up any Ks, only one Whitehall batter reached base, by error, and the rest were disposed of by Buckhorn fielding.
Senior Morgan Theobald grounded out as the Buckhorn’s lead-off batter, but junior Tyler Kirsten sent a hard grounder into center field.
He advanced to second on a ground out by sophomore Derrick Vosburg and then dove in to score on a left-field line drive put in play by junior Max Alessi.
Next up, senior Austin Gilpin, who singled to move Alessi’s courtesy runner, junior Ty Holbert, to advance to second.
Unfortunately, another Paupack ground out closed the chapter with two left on the bags, but Paupack was up 1-0.
Husson clipped the foot of the lead-off batter, who then moved to second on a single by Lisicky.
Husson picked up a soft grounder hit towards him, spun toward second, and made the throw to senior shortstop Mitchell Guerrieri, for the out at second.
With runners on the corners, the Zephyrs looked as though they were being set up for a double play, which is exactly what happened next.
Guerrieri fielded the grounder, lobbed it to Kirsten at second, who in turn completed the play with a throw to senior Chris Brindle at first.
The Buckhorns found no love in the bottom of the second and managed to keep the Zephyrs at bay during the top of the third.
However, Paupack went down without mustering more runs in the bottom of the frame.
A one-out single and a pair of two-out walks loaded the bases for Whitehall in the top of the fourth. A line drive to shallow right put two Zephyrs across the plate and a stand-up triple scored two more.
While Husson did strikeout an earlier batter, being in a 4-1 deficit was too much and Gilpin was moved from third base to come in.
A passed ball let one more Zephyr slip in to make it 5-1 before he could shut them down.
The Bucks went down in order in the bottom of the fourth and then gave up one run in the top of the fifth, making it a 6-1 game.
Fighting to the End
It was still 6-1 coming into the bottom of the seventh.
Gilpin singled on a 1-2 pitch and Guerrieri moved him to third on a single as well. Brindle sacrificed to score Gilpin and junior Adam Sands reached on an error to put Guerrieri on third. Sadly, for the Buckhorns, that would be as far as they would go.
A strikeout kept both runners on their respective bags and a fly out finally dashed their hopes of advancing to the state championship game.
By a final score of 6-2, Whitehall moved on and Paupack penned the last chapter of its amazing story.
Husson went three-and-two-thirds innings for Paupack, giving up five hits, five runs, and four errors.
He walked two and struck out one. Gilpin notched four strikeouts while allowing two hits and a run.
Offensively, Gilpin posted a pair of hits while Kirsten, Alessi, Guerrieri, and Izaiah Santiago each counted one.
All told, out of 42 at bats for the Buckhorns, they suffered only four strikeouts. Putting the ball in play wasn’t an issue, getting it past the stiff Whitehall defense was another story.
“We felt confident coming in,” said Schmalzle.
“We thought we were in a good spot and felt confident with our defense. Whitehall just did a good job at hitting the ball.”
“We certainly had high aspirations coming into the season. Winning the district title was a huge feat and we thought we could make a deep run in states. These kids have a lot of heart and will fight to the end.
“I’m very proud of them and the work they put into achieved all they have and I’m also very proud of the community that has supported them.”