A great catch by Whitehall’s Ben Hudak in the third inning would have been a perfect way for the eighth-seeded Zephs to talk about an upset victory in the EPC playoffs over top-seed Liberty on Saturday.
When first baseman Hudak drifted into foul ground to go after a pop up, the bases were loaded in the bottom of the third of a scoreless game. Hudak kept tracking the ball as it started to reach the fence where spectators had gathered to watch the game. Hudak stuck his glove over the fence, and then toppled over it, the ball secure in his mitt.
Inning over. No damage. Hudak unscathed. Zephyrs up to bat.
It was perhaps the best catch of the year. And it kept the No.1 seeded Hurricanes off the scoreboard as the two teams were locked in a pitcher’s duel.
But, this story ends in the bottom of the sixth as Liberty eked out the victory, sending them into the semifinals with a 1-0 win. The Hurricanes got on the board with a drag bunt from Brayden D’Amico, a soft roller down the third base line that allowed Wyatt Marshall to score.
The hit was put in a good spot and Marshall slid under the tag for the go-ahead run.
“It was a perfect bunt, what are you going to do,” said Whitehall head coach Shaun O’Boyle. “He put it down in a clutch situation.”
The ‘Canes manufactured the winning run beginning with a sharply hit ball for an infield hit. Marshall got to second on a sacrifice bunt, and then reached third on a deep fly, the ball hit well enough where Matt Snyder’s throw and the subsequent relay was just a bit late to nab him on the tag play.
Liberty’s Jake Kraihanzel and Whitehall’s Joe Lisicky were impressive on the mound. Kraihanzel went six innings fanning four and walking two to pick up the win. Lisicky went seven innings taking the hard-luck loss while fanning two and also walking two and allowing five hits. Todd Erney notched the save pitching a scoreless seventh and striking out a batter.
The Zephyrs had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the top of the fifth. Ayden Dunbar led off with an infield hit, a high chopper that he beat on a bang-bang play at first. Matt Snyder singled to left, and after a delayed steal, the Zephyrs had runners on first and third with nobody out.
After Kraihanzel got a punch out, Shane Fillman walked to load the bases. But a strikeout and fielder’s choice ended the threat.
Whitehall finished the game stranding over ten runners.
LHS will play Easton in the semifinals at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday at DeSales, after Press deadlines, and, of course, weather-permitting. The finals are scheduled for Thursday at 7:15 p.m. at DeSales. The other semifinal is Emmaus vs. Northampton.