Pittston Area second baseman Carmen LoPresto makes a play on a ground ball during a game with Crestwood Friday.Don Carey/Times Leader Photo
HUGHESTOWN — It started as an exhale at one end of the dugout and grew to a roar at the other end, where George Ritz was crossing home plate.
Six innings of frustration at the plate for Crestwood disappeared in the final frame, as the Comets played their most patient inning of the season.
They entered the seventh with two hits and no runs. They ended it still stuck at two hits, but the five walks they drew gave them a dramatic 2-1 win over top-seeded Pittston Area in the District 2 Class 3A baseball quarterfinals on Friday.
Down to their last strike before the start of summer, the Comets got a bases-loaded, two-out walk from Derek Chrismer that scored Ritz to tie the game. Aaron Danilack followed in suit to bring home Mike Malkemes.
Ace Matt Wotherspoon came back out to pitch a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh, and Crestwood had its biggest win of the season.
“At any level, that’s a good baseball game,” Crestwood coach Mark Modrovsky said. “That’s fun stuff to be able to be involved in games like that, especially when they’re meaningful.”
The No. 8 Comets (10-7) will now get to host No. 13 Coughlin in the district semifinals on Tuesday. The Crusaders knocked off Crestwood in a 2007 semifinal game at Hilldale Park, while the teams split the season series this year.
Pittston Area (12-4) had its postseason run end at home in the quarterfinals for the second straight year, though the two seasons couldn’t have concluded any differently.
In 2008, the Patriots fell victim to the scorching bats of Honesdale in a 24-11 defeat. On Friday, the two teams combined for just three runs and five hits against two stellar pitching performances.
Cody Patton struck out 12 in 6 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and walking four.
Wotherspoon, who remains unbeaten in league play and the postseason, gave up three hits, fanned nine and walked just one. His fastball hit 93 mph at one point and was still throwing 88-89 in the bottom of the seventh, finishing the game under 90 pitches.
“He works hard, and he really, really wants to pitch in big situations,” Modrovsky said. “You like to have guys like that on your team, and we’ve got a couple of them.”
Only two pitches seemed to get away from him, coming back-to-back in the second inning. Jon Woytach sent the first one deep for a triple and came all the way around to score on the play when the relay was bobbled. Rob Lemoncelli followed with a triple of his own, but Wotherspoon regrouped to strike out the next three batters to leave him stranded at third.
The Patriots put runners on second and third in the sixth after an error on a hard-hit grounder and a single by Woytach with two outs, but Wotherspoon reached down for another K to end the inning.
“We just had to keep fighting and hold them to one,” Wotherspoon said. “Make sure to give our team a chance to win it.”
That’s what happened in the top of the seventh as Ritz and Malkemes led off with walks. After a strikeout, Modrovsky went to his bench to bring on a right-handed pinch hitter to face the lefty Patton.
Pittston Area coach Paul Zaffuto countered by taking out Patton, who was over 100 pitches, and replacing him with righty Joe Dorbad. Modrovsky came right back and subbed his original hitter, left-handed Pete Lamore, back in the lineup.
Lamore drew another walk to load the bases. Dorbad struck out the next batter before Chrismer brought home the tying run when a 3-2 pitch missed the zone.
“That was the most intense thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Chrismer said of his climactic at-bat. He had tripled to lead off the sixth, but was later thrown out at the plate on a grounder to third.
With the visitors’ dugout jumping, Danilack then drew a four-pitch walk for the winning run.
The surprising sequence ended an impressive run for a group of four-year starters for the Patriots, who won two district titles during their tenure.
“I took the gamble, and it was all on me,” Zaffuto said of his pitching switch. “I made the call, and it came back and bit us a little bit. But that’s nothing against what Joe did for us all year. Joe did a fantastic job for us all year. I just feel bad I put him in that kind of spot and that kind of pressure.”
District 2 Class 3A quarterfinals
|Chrismer c||2||0||1||1||LoPresto 2b||2||0||0||0|
|Danilack 2b||2||0||0||1||Gattuso lf||3||0||0||0|
|MRitz ph||1||0||0||0||Morreale cf||3||0||0||0|
|Sweeney cf||4||0||1||0||Parente 1b||3||0||0||0|
|Ermish 3b||3||0||0||0||Patton p||0||0||0||0|
|GRitz 1b||2||1||0||0||Dorbad p||0||0||0||0|
|Malkemes rf||2||1||0||0||Woytach dh||3||1||2||0|
|Wotherpsn p||2||0||0||0||Kobeski pr||0||0||0||0|
|Lamore ss||2||0||0||0||Lemnclli ss||3||0||1||0|
|Dotzel ph||0||0||0||0||Savokins 3b||3||0||0||0|
|Wrenn lf||0||0||0||0||Daley rf||2||0||0||0|
|Katulka dh||2||0||0||0||Borino ph||1||0||0||0|
3B – Chrismer, Woytach, Lemoncelli
|Wotherspn (W, 1-0)||7.0||3||1||1||1||9|
|Patton (L, 0-1)||6.1||2||2||2||4||12|