MOOSIC —Berwick delivered the first blow in the bottom of the first inning when Jake Jones scored on a throwing error. Abington Heights shortstop Matt Heckman made sure the early damage was limited when he stopped a grounder deep in the hole to prevent another run from scoring in the second.
Abington Heights’ pitcher Dave Manasek, who struck out seven batters as part of his complete-game win, fanned the next two Bulldogs’ hitters to escape the jam and the fourth-seeded Comets erupted for three runs in the third and fifth innings to defeat third-seeded Berwick, 7-2, in the District 2 Class AAA championship game at PNC Field Monday night.
“It was big,” Manasek said. “It could have been a momentum changer, but ‘Tate’ is a great shortstop and he got to it.”
Comets’ right fielder Brad Smertz, who finished with three hits, doubled to start the third inning and scored from second base on a drag bunt down the first-base line by catcher Scott Salmon.
“We definitely work on a lot of small ball in our practices,” Salmon said. “I just wanted to try to get the bunt down and move the runner over. I was pretty lucky that it got between their guys.”
Center fielder Sean O’Connor added a two-out, two-run single to give Abington Heights a 3-1 lead.
“(O) works so hard every day,” Abington Heights head coach Bill Zalewski said. “He keeps trying to improve and it shows. The kid can swing the bat.”
Berwick right fielder Zach Andress drove in the Bulldogs other run with a double in the bottom of the third inning.
O’Connor knocked in his third run of the game on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning and the next two batters, Justin Porpiglia and Eric Salerno, followed with RBIs.
Manasek, who allowed one earned run and scattered five hits over seven innings of work, retired nine of the final 11 Berwick hitters.
“Dave battled… they made him throw,” Zalewski said. “They took some pitches early and looked for their pitch. As the game went on, he started settling in and got stronger and stronger. I think he was throwing harder in the last inning than he was in the first.”
Heckman added an insurance run in the top of the sixth when he drove in Smertz on a fielder’s choice.
“We are hitting right now,” Manasek said. “If we keep hitting like this, there’s nothing we can’t do. From where we were in the beginning of the year, our coach said, ‘give us a month and we’re going to be the best team there,’ and we were.”
Abington Heights (13-4) will play the District 4 champion in the first round of the PIAA playoffs at a site and time to be determined on June 2.