Last updated: May 23. 2014 11:51PM - 3342 Views
By Tom Fox For The Times Leader

Holy Redeemer's Andrew Semanek (23) slides safely underneath Hanover Area catcher Mike Sulcoski, scoring on Justin Renfer's single in the fourth inning. The Class 2A semifinal was suspended because of heavy rain a few minutes later.
Holy Redeemer's Andrew Semanek (23) slides safely underneath Hanover Area catcher Mike Sulcoski, scoring on Justin Renfer's single in the fourth inning. The Class 2A semifinal was suspended because of heavy rain a few minutes later.
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HAZLETON — All Tony Hernandez could do was watch the ball as Evan Steele drilled it deep to right field.
The ball easily cleared the 270-foot sign and almost smashed a red car driving up the street.
Problem for Steele, though, is that the sign is clearly placed in foul territory. Just a long second strike.
“I guess the baseball gods were watching over me on that one,” the Hazleton Area starter said.
It was the lone mistake the senior made on the mound as Hernandez and Joe Baran combined on a four-hitter, while the Biasi brothers, Sal and Dante, knocked in all three Cougar runs as Hazleton advanced into the District 2-4 Class 4A championship with a 3-1 victory over Williamsport Friday.
The win vaults Hazleton into Monday's 10 a.m. championship at PNC Field against top-seeded Delaware Valley, a victor over Wyoming Valley West in the other semifinal.
“That's baseball sometimes. A few feet and that's a home run. Luckily, it was a foul,” Hernandez said. “I didn't let it get to me. My goal right now is just to pitch a good game for my team. This could have been my last baseball game in high school. That motivates me. I didn't want it to end. I just left my heart out there.”
Hernandez took a big sigh of relief as the ball went foul.
If it stood fair, the game would have been knotted at 3-3 because Williamsport already had a runner on base.
Instead, the senior bore down and got Steele to swing at the next pitch, protecting the two-run lead in the fifth.
“We knew Tony was done at that point. I went out the batter before and he told me that he needed to finish this inning,” Hazleton head coach Gino Cara said. “He's been our guy. He's a senior and he wanted the ball. We had Joey and Sal ready to go, but he wanted the ball. I trusted him.”
The senior was masterful despite pitching in cold conditions and a steady drizzle. His only hiccup came in the opening frame when Damone Buxton drilled an 0-2 offering to right field, scoring Davey Ludwikowski from second.
“They have some good arms. Hazleton has some very good pitchers,” Williamsport head coach David Howe said. “They were impressive on paper, and just as impressive here. I think we swung at some bad pitches early. Butterflies, you know. It's the playoffs and the kids were a little nervous.
“I wanted them to be aggressive when we had guys in scoring position, but we swung at some pitches out of the strike zone. Unfortunately, we came out on the short end.”
The Cougars didn't let the deficit linger too long. Following a Baran one-out fielder's choice in the home half of the first, Dante Biasi drew a five-pitch free pass and a short blooper to right by Robbie John loaded the bases for Sal Biasi.
The Penn State recruit capitalized, ripping the ball through the left side of the infield and into the outfield green. Both Baran and Dante Biasi scored as the Cougars regained momentum.
Dante Biasi added the insurance in the third, driving a Gabe Rader pitch well over the fence in right-center field for a solo homer.
With the way Hernandez was throwing, a two-run lead was like a 10-run cushion.
“I was worried about Williamsport because they have such a good team year-in and year-out, and that's not just coach-speak,” Cara said. “We haven't played in 10 days, so I was worried about rust. Those two runs were huge. We wanted to respond to that early run.
“We want to get one run an inning. If we score seven runs with our pitching staff, we are going to be in good shape. With three runs, I was a little worried.”
Hawkeyes-Royals suspended
The biggest at-bat of the game was about to come up. Mother Nature had other plans.
A strong downpour Friday afternoon halted the District 2 Class 2A semifinal between Hanover Area and Holy Redeemer. The top-seeded Hawkeyes led 4-2 in the top of the fourth when the game was suspended, but the Royals had the bases loaded with one out at the time.
Play will resume at that same point at 4 p.m. today at Hanover Area High School.
The Hawkeyes got a two-run single from Mike Bugonowicz with two outs in the bottom of the first to get things started. John Wickiser added an RBI double in the second as the rain began to hit the area.
It was 3-0 Hawkeyes in the third when the game was originally halted because of the weather. After a delay of about 25 minutes, the teams went back out on the field and the Hawks added to their lead on a sacrifice fly by Matt Kuhl.
But the rain never fully stopped. With conditions worsening in the fourth, Justin Renfer landed a 2-2 pitch just on the fair side of the line in deep left to score two runs. From there, the Hawks brought on Wicksier to pitch and Redeemer's Matt Pawlowski drew a walk through the heaviest rain of the day to load the bases.
Umpires cleared the field again after the walk and ultimately suspended the game after determining the field wouldn't be ready for play.
The eventual winner will face Lakeland in the Class 2A championship at 4 p.m. Monday at PNC Field.
Hazleton Area 3, Williamsport 1
District 2-4 Class 4A semifinals
Noah Esposito ss`3`0`1`0`0`0`0
Ian Dinsmore 3b`4`0`1`0`0`0`0
D. Ludwikowski 1b`2`1`0`0`0`0`0
Evan Steele rf `1`0`0`0`0`0`0
Damone Buxton c`3`0`1`1`0`0`0
Alex Fantaskey lf`0`0`0`0`0`0`0
Isaac Foust dh`3`0`1`0`1`0`0
Gabe Rader p-cf`3`0`0`0`0`0`0
Marc McClain cf`2`0`0`0`0`0`0
Kyle Hoover p`0`0`0`0`0`0`0
Sam Engel ph`1`0`0`0`0`0`0
Chaz Bittner 2b`2`0`0`0`0`0`0
Collin McCoy ph`1`0`0`0`0`0`0
Totals `25`1`4`1`1`0`0
Hazleton Area`AB`R`H`BI`2B`3B`HR
Dave Klein rf-cf`2`0`1`0`0`0`0
Joe Baran cf-p`3`1`0`0`0`0`0
Dante Biasi lf`2`2`1`1`0`0`1
Robbie John c`3`0`1`0`0`0`0
Sal Biasi 2b`2`0`1`0`0`0`0
C. Panzarella ss`3`0`0`0`0`0`0
Tony Hernandez p`0`0`0`0`0`0`0
Kyle Rogers dh`3`0`0`0`0`0`0
Jeremy Budgeon rf`0`0`0`0`0`0`0
Tom Sharp 1b`2`0`0`0`0`0`0
Mitch O'Donnell 3b`1`0`0`0`0`0`0
Hazleton Area`201`000`x`—`3
Rader (L, 0-1)`4.0`4`3`3`4`6
Hazleton Area`IP`H`R`ER`BB`SO
Hernandez (W, 1-0)`5.0`3`1`1`3`5
Baran (S)`2.0`1`0`0`0`3

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