HERSHEY >> Southern Fulton couldn't have asked for much more Thursday afternoon, when the Indians put together one of the best baseball games they have played all season.
Trent Rider was once again masterful on the mound, firing a one-hitter, and he was backed up by an errorless defense and a heavy-hitting offense. That complete effort led Southern Fulton to a 6-0 victory over Tri-Valley in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal at Hershey High School.
"(Trent) was on; our bats were on," SF coach Dustin Fischer said. "It was a total team effort, and in every aspect of the game, we did well. I think we should've scored more runs, but once we got into the groove of things, we were aggressive on the bases; we were hitting well; we had some nice plays in the outfield; and Trent only gave up one hit."
Despite the Indians leaving nine stranded, that's a pretty fine recipe for victory. With the win, Southern Fulton (24-2) advances to the state semifinals where it will take on District 3 champion Lancaster County Christian (21-4) on Monday at a site and time to be determined. The Lions were an 11-1 victor over Blue Ridge in six innings.
Tri-Valley finishes with a 16-9 record.
"They're an experienced team, and you can see how they handle themselves," Bulldog coach Bob Felty Sr. said. "The pitcher threw a great game for them. He throws strikes, which we knew. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is tremendous for a high school pitcher. He's always around the plate."
Rider (9-1) needed just 91 pitches to take down the Bulldogs, and 68 of those went for strikes. He finished with 11 strikeouts, and his only blemish came on a one-out single in the third inning.
"I honestly say the same thing before every game," Rider said. "I focus on the catcher's mitt and just try to hit my locations. I tell myself, 'Don't even see the batter; don't hear everybody in the crowd. Just throw it to that mitt every time."
For the second game in a row, Southern Fulton immediately got production from its offense. Dylan Gordon led off the bottom of the first inning by reaching first on a error, and he was followed by a hard-hit single from Tristan Douglas.
Connor Litton then notched his first RBI of the game with a single to plate Gordon before the Indians took advantage of some pitching struggles. Tri-Valley pitcher Will Kimmel issued back-to-back walks – his only two of the game – but the last one to Tanner Elbin came with the bases loaded.
"We gave them a couple runs in the first inning," Felty said. "We could've made those first two plays, and then there would've been two outs with nobody on. But it was still 3-0 heading into the sixth inning, so it was still anybody's game if we would've gotten an error here or a hit there."
But the Bulldogs didn't catch any such breaks. After Dillan Lashley led off the third inning with a solo home run to leftfield to make it 3-0, Southern Fulton was perfect through the final four innings.
The Indians also tacked on some insurance in the bottom of the sixth. Zach Clark led off with a single, and with one out, Douglas slammed a double to drive him home. Douglas then stole third before being driven in by a Litton single.
Lashley then reached base on an error, and Rider helped his own cause by plating Litton with a groundout to second.
Douglas finished 4-for-4 with two runs and three stolen bases. Litton and Rider each had a pair of hits.
"It's so important to jump out in front of them early," Douglas said. "It intimidates the other team and lets them know that you're there to win. I was just going up there trying to get a hit or get on base any way I could."
Southern Fulton will now head to its second semifinal appearance in school history. The Indians have never made it to the PIAA championship game, but they're looking to change that this year.
"I don't know if I want to say that we're the favorite, but I think we are playing very good baseball right now," Fischer said. "We're hitting the best we have all year, and we're very, very confident in ourselves.
"We keep our head in the game – for instance, (Robbie) McCusker didn't have a good day at the plate, but he made a great catch out there (in leftfield) to end the game. We believe. We're a good team; we're not just a small little rural school. We have a very special group of boys this year."
NOTES >> Jake Masser had the lone hit of the game for Tri-Valley ... Southern Fulton racked up seven stolen bases ... The Indians have not allowed a run and have given up only one hit in the state tournament.
Southern Fulton 6 Tri-Valley 0
Tri-ValleySo. FultonabrhbabrhbSchwalm lf3000Gordon 3b4100Lucas cf3000Dougls 2b4241Bordner ss3000Litton ss3122Herb 1b3000Lashley cf4111Yoder c2000Rider p3021Corado 2b2000Mellott cr0000Klinger dh2000Elbin c3001Kimmel p0000Lynch dh2000Masser 3b2010Potter 1b0000Buchann rf2000McCuskr lf3000Clark rf3110Totals22010Totals296106
E: TV 2; LOB: TV 1, SF 9; 2B: Rider, Douglas; HR: Lashley (4); SAC: Potter; SB: Douglas 3, Litton 2, Clark, Lashley.
So. Fulton pitching
HPB: by Kimmel (Litton); Balk: Rider.