WILLIAMSPORT — Abington Heights pounded out 12 hits in its PIAA Class AAA baseball first round game against Jersey Shore at Bowman Field. It was the elusive 13th that kept the Comets from advancing in the state playoffs as they were defeated, 4-3.
The first three Abington Heights’ batters reached base in the top of the first inning and first baseman Justin Porpiglia gave the Comets an early lead with an RBI single. Jimmy Fayocavitz was gunned out at the plate by Bulldogs’ left fielder Christian Rishel attempting to score from first base.
“We hit the ball right out of the gate,” Abington Heights’ head coach Bill Zalewski said. “I got a guy thrown out at the plate, and then we were a little gun-shy to go the next time.”
Jersey Shore answered right back in the bottom of the inning when the first two batters reached base and Rishel crushed a 3-run home run over the left-center field wall off Comets’ starting pitcher Tyler Ksiazek.
“Our mindset is always to get at least one run in the first inning because once we get that run, we know we can build on it,” Rishel said. “The home run was a little extra, I guess you can say.”
Ksiazek struck out three of the next four Bulldogs’ batters looking and allowed only one run and three hits over the next 4 2/3 innings of work before being relieved by Dave Manasek with runners on first and third in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Jersey Shore right fielder Levi Lorson, who was hitless in his previous two at-bats, stepped up to the plate with a specific approach and delivered. His ground ball found a gap between first and second base and proved to be the game winning RBI.
“I was just going up to try to punch it through the hole,” Lorson said. “Nothing special…just a basic hit.”
Manasek struck out the next batter looking to keep the deficit at one run.
“He’s a bear in the playoffs,” Zalewski said of Ksiazek. “Him and Dave…I would take them on the mound any day.”
Abington Heights stranded 13 base runners, including three in the top of the second when Jersey Shore pitcher Travis Bradley worked out of a bases loaded jam with a strikeout.
Ksiazek, who had two hits and reached base three times, knocked in Matt Heckman with an RBI single in the top of the fourth and Sean O’Connor lined a triple to deep center field, scoring Fayocavitz to tie the game.
“They kept battling,” Zalewski said, “this team has battled all year. I can’t be more proud of these boys.”
Bulldogs’ pitcher Boone Costa, who allowed one run on two hits in two innings, induced a pop up with runners on first and third in the top of the sixth and sent down the Comets in order in the seventh to end the game.
“We came in knowing they they’re a great, well coached baseball team. We knew it was going to be a dogfight from the get go. We just didn’t get that big hit today. That’s baseball.”
Abington Heights finished the year with a 13-5 record. The Comets will have to replace six starters: shortstop Matt Heckman, pitcher Manasek, outfielder Sean O’Connor, first baseman Porpiglia, catcher Scott Salmon, and outfielder Brad Smertz. Outfielder Kyle Tierney, who saw significant playing time, will also graduate.