It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing game of baseball ever played.
Wilson and Muhlenberg combined for seven errors in Saturday’s Berks Baseball League semifinal at FirstEnergy Stadium.
But one thing that helped the second-seeded Bulldogs come away with the 6-5 victory over the third-seeded and defending champion Muhls, was the steady pitching of Nick Crocona.
The senior right-hander allowed three runs — one earned — on six hits in six innings. Most importantly, he did not issue a walk.
“I was like pitch to contact and when you do that you gotta make sure our guys make the plays,” said Wilson coach Bill Underwood, whose team committed five errors. “So we struggled with that. But yeah, no walks and that really helps out because if you walk guys and you have errors and you get a couple of hits, it compounds it, and we were able to limit stuff.”
Crocona’s performance also helped save Wilson’s pitching staff. The Bulldogs (15-6) will go into Monday’s championship game against top-seeded Gov. Mifflin (17-4) at 6 p.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium with nearly every pitcher available.
The Mustangs defeated Fleetwood 9-7 in the other semifinal.
Crocona struck out just two, but only allowed more than one hit in an inning once in what was his longest outing since pitching into the seventh inning against Nazareth on April 8.
“He’s done a great job for us this year, just keeping us in the ball games, throwing strikes,” Underwood said.
Muhlenberg (13-8) took a 1-0 lead in the first. With one out, Gio Cavanna was safe on catcher’s interference after his deep fly to center was caught. Cavanna then scored on an errant throw on a grounder.
Wilson tied it in the bottom half when Tommy Hunsicker, who led off with a single, scored on a double by brother Christo Hunsicker.
The Hunsickers are the sons of Reading Fightin Phils general manager Scott Hunsicker. Tommy went 3-for-4 and Christo 2-for-4 Saturday at a ballpark where they’ve spent plenty of time.
The Muhls took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on a two-run single by Kevin Rodriguez. The runners reached second and third thanks to a pair of errors.
The Bulldogs answered right back in the bottom of the inning.
Wilson loaded the bases as Christo Hunsicker and Nick Fiorini singled and Rafael Fernandez was hit by a pitch. Jordan Shutter knocked in the first run with a single, then Crocona walked to force in the tying run.
Muhlenberg coach Brian Kopetsky then replaced starter Josh Smeltzer with Lincoln High. High hit Mason Sensenig to bring in the go-ahead run, then allowed an RBI single to Tommy Hunsicker.
Underwood said one of things that has turned things around for the Bulldogs, who won their eighth straight, has been a change in offensive approach. He and his coaching staff have emphasized going up the middle, being more selective and choking up with two strikes.
“It was kind of a just put the ball in play and see what happens,” Underwood said, “and we were able to make a few more plays and get a few more hits when we needed them. So that was a big difference.”
Another big difference may have been Crocona shifting from his curveball to his slider partway through the game.
“This is the second time that they faced me,” Crocona said, “so I wanted to mix in another pitch that they probably hadn’t seen. before. And then I was just glad to be able to get some outs.”
Muhlenberg put together a rally after two were out in the seventh. Cavanna’s single drove home Cameron Burr, who had walked. Cavanna scored on a single by Eli Keller, but Ben Kulp was able to retire Shane Rosenberrry on a grounder to second to end it.
“We played Wilson three times (this season) and the games were pretty much a carbon copy of what you just saw there,” said Kopetsky, whose team will open District 3 Class 5A play on May 19. “I’ve seen a change in the character of our team in the last week or so. All season long we’ve kind of played from ahead. All of a sudden you’re getting better teams, better games, more challenges and all of a sudden our character of not quitting and fighting back (is showing), and I thought we did a really good job today of showing that character and being a little bit relentless.”
It’s a relentlessness that Wilson has shown, too.
“We were struggling a couple of weeks ago,” Crocona said, “but we were able to rally as a team, start to get the bats going and also we’ve had some good pitching performances and we just were able to put it all together.”
Source: Berkshire mont
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