PHILADELPHIA — La Salle College High School displayed just what you need to win in the PIAA-AAAA Baseball Tournament on Monday afternoon: solid defense and good control on the mound.
On the flip side, its opponent Boyertown did not. The Explorers took advantage of early walks and key errors later on and eliminated the Bears, 6-3 in an opening-round game at FDR Park's Richie Ashburn Field.
Nick Dermo drilled a two-run single with two out in the first inning for District 12 champion La Salle (18-6) following a pair of free passes and the Explorers made it 6-0 in the fourth with the help of two errors by the District 1 runner-up Bears (20-6) and a timely two-run double by winning pitcher Dom Cuoci.
James Buckley pitched well in relief for Boyertown and Dan Purnell knocked in two runs, including an RBI double in the seventh, as the Bears rallied for two runs and eventually brought the tying run to the plate."We had two unopportunistic errors,' said Boyertown coach Todd Moyer. "That's the name of the game. You've got to limit your mistakes. Unfortunately, the last couple of games it's been characteristic ... and the season's over.'
Boyertown left-hander Tyler Bauman, who had not allowed a run in a pair of District 1 playoff wins, struggled with his control in the first and walked two of the first three batters. Then Dermo drilled a single to center after one runner had advanced on a fly to right and the other had stolen second to make it 2-0.
Bauman's outing came to an end when he gave up a hit and two more bases on balls in the second while the only out the Bears got was on a sacrifice bunt.
"I hate to see Tyler's career end that way,' said Moyer. "He didn't have his best stuff. He got out there and started pressing a little bit. Today he didn't look the same, and we didn't have the opportunity to wait.'Side-winding right-hander Buckley came on and kept the score at 2-0 with a pop back to the mound and a fly to right. He allowed only three hits over four innings, but the two Bears errors in the fourth led to four unearned runs, two scoring on a single by Jim Herron and the others on Cuoci's long double to the fence in right.
"Buck did a great job,' said Moyer. "He did that in the first game of the season and got a win. He did that all year. He came in when our starters struggled and he did real well.'"
The biggest issue was we made errors at key points in the game,' said Buckley, who hurt himself by hitting two batters in the fourth. "Personally, for me, I just missed my spots at times. The past two games (including a 7-3 loss to Methacton in the district final), we've made errors that we haven't made all season.'
Meanwhile, St. Joseph's-bound right-hander Cuoci allowed only three singles and no walks and no runs through the first four frames."I think location,' he said concerning the key to his effective outing.
"We had a week off and location was a big thing. Early on my slider was working and my fastball velocity was pretty good. "Today, especially, my control was great, too. Everything was working ... all three pitches.
'The two runs in the first didn't hurt, either."That was huge,' he said. "Nick (Dermo) came up, 0-0, two outs in the first inning. That's a huge hit. You've just got to keep the momentum, especially in this type of tournament.'
The Bears hit the ball hard after the first three innings and out-hit their opponents 9-5 for the day. They went down in order in the fourth despite stinging two balls in that frame — a fly to deep left by Austin Madeja and a liner to second by Tyler Comport.
They put their first run on the board in the fifth on La Salle's only error, a wild pitch, an infield hit by Ben Longacre, and a grounder to third by Purnell.
Then they rallied in the seventh as they had numerous times during the season. Zach Moser picked up an infield hit with one out and pinch hitter T. Dalton Hughes grounded a hard single past third. Purnell followed with his double down the line in right and Wesley Fox brought home a run with a bunt single with two outs, leaving runners at first and third. But Cuoci got a fly to center to wrap up the win
."They're a good team,' Cuoci said concerning the Bears. "They're fast, but we had great defense all day.'"We didn't quit all year,' said Moyer. "We gutted it out all year long. They did a lot of hard work in the winter and I'm sure they'll agree that they overachieved. They worked together as a team.'
"We had great base running and key hits and our pitching was outstanding and our defense was almost perfect,' Buckley added concerning the season.
But the Explorers played better on Monday to advance to a Thursday quarterfinal against the winner between Hazleton and Hempfield
.Last year La Salle was eliminated in the first round after winning the state title in 2012."
We were itching to get back after winning it that year,' said Cuoci, who was the starting shortstop and No. 2 pitcher on the championship squad. "There's no better feeling than that.'