The Bethel Park baseball team bounced back from a WPIAL championship game loss with a 5-1 victory over Northern York in a first-round PIAA playoff game at Red Lion High School field.
“I was very proud of the team’s response,” said Black Hawks head coach Patrick Zehnder. “I could tell they were hungry to wash the (Franklin Regional) loss off and make another playoff run.
“To be able to ride on a bus for four hours, get into the heat and put together an efficient, complete game against a great team and pitcher was admirable,” he added.
“This group is so mentally tough and great at focusing on the task at hand while ignoring the noise around them.”
Starting pitcher Tommy Molsky, who helped lead the Polar Bears (20-6) to a runner-up finish in District 3, certainly presented a distraction for the Black Hawks.
Northern York’s hard-throwing ace struck out 10, but surrendered eight hits in six innings, before yielding to reliever John Noll.
“The key to our victory was our guys’ ability to battle against another hard thrower,” Zehnder said. “(Molsky) threw the hardest we have seen all year and that’s saying something with the last four flamethrowers we’ve faced.”
Zehnder said the Black Hawks especially did a great job with handling Molsky’s power slider, hitting the ball to the opposite field and finding a way to put it in play with runners on base.
“Their pitcher was going to get his strikeouts. My guys did well to avoid getting frustrated with tough at bats, learned from it and did better with their next opportunity,” Zehnder said.
Eric Chalus led Bethel Park at the plate by going 2 for 3 with an RBI, while Zack Sackett doubled and drove in three runs. David Kessler also smacked two hits, including a triple for the Black Hawks.
BP scored one run in the first, fourth and seventh innings before tacking on two runs in the sixth.
In the first inning, Chalus singled, stole second and scored on a single by Cody Geddes. In the fourth, Kessler tripled and scored on Sackett’s sacrifice fly.
Sackett’s two-run double highlighted the sixth inning for the Black Hawks.
Jason Nuttridge reached base on an error to ignite the Bethel Park half of the seventh. After swiping second, Nuttridge scored on a single by Chalus.
Ben Hudson and Ray Altmeyer had the other BP hits, both singles.
Evan Holewinski picked up the win on the mound for the Black Hawks.
In seven innings, he scattered four hits, walked none, struck out four and allowed just one earned run.
“It was another great start for Evan,” said Zehnder of the sophomore pitcher who improved to 7-1 this season.
With the win, BP (19-4) advanced to face Southern Lehigh, the District 11 champion, in the PIAA quarterfinals.
The state semifinals are set for June 14 with the championship game scheduled for 4:30 p.m. June 17 at Penn State University’s Medlar Field.