State College’s Chris Adams was looking to poke any pitch he could through the infield.
With speedy leadoff hitter Brandon Raquet on second base, Adams knew that might be all he needed to do to drive in the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning. Adams did just that, lining an 0-2 pitch past Norwin shortstop Dan Kiester and into left field, and Raquet raced around to beat the throw to clinch a 4-3 victory over the Knights in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA tournament Monday at Hollidaysburg High School.
Adams chucked his helmet away as his teammates ran toward him to celebrate the walk-off victory that sends the Little Lions to the state quarterfinals.
“You got 20-some guys charging at you,” Adams said. “It’s just a special feeling, (and) try not to get trampled.”
State College will face Shaler in the quarterfinals Thursday at a site and time to be announced. Shaler beat Pittsburgh Central Catholic 3-1 in its first-round game Monday.
State College’s Kyle Peterson earned the win, firing five perfect innings of relief. The right-hander struck out three and never allowed Norwin to threaten in the final four innings.
The Knights jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the top of the third inning with the help of some State College miscues.
State College starting pitcher Bailey Ishler allowed two walks before facing Vinnie Shoff, who drove in both runs with a double to the left-center field gap in the top of the second inning. The Knights added to their lead in the third when leadoff hitter Bobby Svec reached on an error and scored on a double by Reno Rainey.
“That was where the senior leadership really came into play,” State College coach Bill Tussey said. “They didn’t panic. It was still early enough.”
The Little Lions quickly evened the score with three runs in the bottom of the third.
Ben Shawley was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored after Raquet’s single. Raquet took second on an error on his single and moved to third on an infield single by Caleb Walls. Raquet then scored on a sacrifice fly by Adams to cut it to 3-2.
Sam Plafcan then ripped a double to the wall in left-center field to score Walls from first and tie it.
The teams then played six straight scoreless innings to send it to the 10th.
Norwin threatened in the fourth.
But with two outs and runners on first and second, State College second baseman Tyler Hall made an impressive play to end the inning. Hall dove to knock down a ground ball by Svec and fired from the ground in shallow right field to get the out.
Adams later made a tough play on a ground ball up the middle for the final out with a runner on second in the sixth.
“It takes the pressure off the pitcher when he knows he can throw strikes,” Adams said of the steady defensive play. “And that’s why there are a bunch of zeroes up on that board that gave us that opportunity to walk it off.”
Peterson was crucial to giving State College that opportunity.
The right-hander replaced reliever Oliver Dailey on the mound in the top of the sixth with Norwin’s Connor Perry on first base. Peterson got a strikeout and a lineout before Perry stole second.
Adams then ended the inning on the ground ball up the middle, and Norwin never had another baserunner the rest of the way. Peterson retired all 15 batters he faced.
“He mixed the offspeed (pitches) in there very effectively,” Tussey said. “He got two strikeouts on the offspeed. For him, that’s big. If he gets his offspeed across, that makes him a totally different pitcher.”
State College couldn’t break through against Norwin starter Nick Amendola.
Amendola threw nine innings, allowing three runs and seven hits. He also struck out six.
“He did a great job at getting ahead in the count,” Tussey said. “And once he was ahead in the count, he just pounded low in the zone and we beat the ball into the ground or we didn’t hit at all — he struck us out.”
Rainey, a left-hander, started the bottom of the 10th for the Knights.
Raquet led off with an infield single on a slow roller to Amendola at first base. Amendola fielded the ball and dove to try to tag the bag, but Raquet beat it out.
“I was just really thinking any way I could get on base,” said Raquet, who finished 4 for 4. “It didn’t matter whether it was like a double, a single, any way.”
Walls followed with a sacrifice bunt, moving Raquet to second with Adams coming up.
After fouling off the first two pitches, Adams connected on the game-winning single to keep State College’s postseason run alive.
“That was a pretty good high school baseball game,” Tussey said. “That’s really the bottom line. You had two good teams. Both teams battled hard.”