LHS rallies to win
Andy Pitsilos said Gabe Albino had ice in his veins with Liberty’s playoff fate resting on his shoulders in the bottom of the seventh inning of Monday’s East Penn Conference baseball quarterfinal against Nazareth.
The top-seeded Hurricanes trailed 5-4, as Albino found himself behind 0-2 in the count with two outs and the bases loaded.
After only losing one league contest all season, Liberty was facing elimination in the first round of the league tournament.
That all changed when Albino ripped a fastball over the infield for a walk-off two-run single, catapulting the Hurricanes to a dramatic 6-5 home victory .
The victory sets up Wednesday’s EPC semifinal showdown against fifth-seeded Pocono Mountain East, who smacked Stroudsburg 9-1 Monday afternoon.
That contest will be played at 7:15 p.m. at Hackett’s Park, as the nightcap of a doubleheader with Emmaus (3) and Parkland (2) squaring off in the other semifinal at 4:30 p.m.
But Monday’s win propelled the Hurricanes (19-2, 16-1) to their most challenging win of the season, one that they hope will pay dividends down the road.
“First time we’ve hit the ball in the air a lot and we did not put ourselves in good positions with guys on base,” said Liberty head coach Andy Pitsilos. “We haven’t had to come back all year, so if this was a learning experience, I’m glad we came out of it with a win.”
Liberty fell behind in the second inning 2-0 and saw Nazareth (12-9, 11-6) add two more in the third inning to push their lead to 4-1. That stuck until the fifth inning when Jared Burcin drove in a run from a sac fly to make it 4-2. Liberty loaded the bases and Mike Perreault laced a single to draw the game within 4-3, before the Hurricanes tied it when Jake Unangst chopped a ball to second baseman Steve Stasolla, who dropped it, allowing the tying run to cross and giving the Hurricanes momentum.
Alex Laudenslager saw his day end on the mound for the Hurricanes in the sixth inning, as he finished five innings of work, giving up four runs and striking out four. Sammy Kraihanzel came in for relief and Nazareth’s Nick Skirtick put a blemish on the Liberty right-hander right away, belting an RBI double to center field to push the Blue Eagles in front 5-4.
It stayed that way until the seventh, when Nazareth’s Cade Stoneback saw his evening get tougher after hitting a batter and then seeing an infield error put runners on first and second for Liberty.
Stoneback would then walk Jake Morgan to load the bases with one out.
After striking out Ben Piripavel, it all came down to Albino with two outs and the bases loaded. Getting behind 0-2 in the count only made things more problematic, until Albino got what we wanted.
“I was just hoping for a fastball down the middle,” said Albino. “I was hoping to do my best in that situation and I think this gives us a lot of momentum heading into Wednesday.”
Wednesday’s opponent will be the Cardinals, who were the only team in the EPC this year to defeat Liberty, as they scored three runs in the final two innings for a come-from-behind 3-2 victory on April 20.
“Sometimes you got to get lucky and come up big in the end,” said Pitsilos. “Our kids didn’t quit and that’s all you can ask from them. We’ll see how things go on Wednesday.”