SCOTLAND – The Conemaugh Township baseball team had already established itself as the winningest squad in school history and was looking to extend that streak a little further on Thursday in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinal round contest against Devon Prep at Greene Township field.
But Tide pitcher Andrew Czachor had something to say about that goal, limiting the 22-2 Indians to just three hits, all singles, with eight strikeouts and one hit batsman in a 5-0 shutout over the WestPAC and District 5 champions.
“Obviously, we are very proud of these guys, 22 wins in a season is a lot in a high school baseball season,” Conemaugh Township coach Sam Zambanini said. “We came down to that last inning and continued to battle the whole game.”
Czachor, who is headed to North Carolina-High Point next year, and Conemaugh Township senior starter Jordan Poznanski each got off to a strong start, retiring the first three batters that they faced.
“You can put Jordan in any position, in any sport and he is going to excel,” Zambanini said. “He’s a gamer and a competitor, and obviously we are going to miss him around Conemaugh Township in every season.”
But in the top of the second inning, Jackson Jonik and Pat Coleman opened with back-to-back doubles to get the Tide on the board. Aided by a Kevin Walton bunt single, an Indians miscue and a hit batsman along with a sacrifice fly by Jack Eshelman, Devon Prep went ahead 3-0.
“They executed very well together and strung some hits together,” Zambanini said about the Tide.
Conemaugh Township looked to answer back in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Bailey Kist singled to right and moved to second on an error which put catcher Shaun Berzonski on first. Bailey Kist and Berzonski’s courtesy runner, Brady Kist, loaded the bases on Tyler Poznanski’s single to left.
Czachor was able to strike out Ethan Leasure to end the Indians uprising.
Conemaugh Township had just one hit through the final five innings, a single by Devin Foster, and Berzonski was hit by a pitch, but the Indians could not generate any more offense with Czachor retiring 11 straight after the hit batsman.
“We had some opportunities and left the bases loaded in the bottom of the second inning,” Zambanini said.
“We had two other runners on and just didn’t get the timely hit. That’s a credit to the young man that they had out on the mound. I thought he threw very well. Once he got that three-run lead, he was able to fill the strike zone and throw like a real pitcher and they played some defense behind him.”
Devon Prep added a single run in the fifth inning and with Jackson Byer in relief for the final two innings, the Tide tacked on one more run in the seventh inning to set the final.
“He was a very good pitcher and obviously we didn’t get the bats going today,” Jordan Poznanski said about Czachor. “We played pretty good defense, but came out on the losing end.”
Jonik finished 3-for-4 while pinch hitter Jack Samms added a double and scored the final run for the District 12 champion Tide (10-13), who advance to play District 4 champ South Williamsport a 2-1 winner over Schuylkill Haven, on Monday in the PIAA semifinals at a site and time to be determined.
“We continued to score runs and continue to add,” Devon Prep coach Mark Aquilante said.
“A lot of things went right in that one inning and when we get one or two big hits, we are pretty good. Our pitcher was also very good.”
Zambanini had praise for his squad and the effort that he knew he could alway expect from the group.
“These guys are three-time district champs, and I just can’t say enough about the way they come out every day and play,” Zambanini said. “We are going to miss this senior group, but we have some young guys that can play, too.”
Added Jordan Poznanski: “This senior group has been close over the years and accomplished many of our goals. We’ve been playing together as far back as I can remember and just what we accomplished this year and past years is something that I will never forget.”