BASEBALL: Hempfield edges Hershey, 5-4 in district opener
LANDISVILLE- Hempfield pitcher Jon Peterson had a great day on the mound but it was his late effort at the plate that proved to be the difference in the no. 1 Knights' 5-4 victory over no. 16 Hershey in the first round of the District 3 Class AAAA playoffs.
"We got the warning that we're the no. 1 seed and they're the no. 16 seed so they have nothing to lose," Peterson said. "That's what we were last year and we went with nothing to lose."
As a no. 16 seed in 2014, the Knights went all the way to the to the district championship game.
"The longer I do this, the more I realize that playoff baseball is a crapshoot. You want to make the tournament but beyond that, I think you throw out all of the seedings, ranking and records," Hempfield coach Jeremy Morrison said. "All that stuff is how you got there but it isn't how you advance."
With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth, pinch-hitter Angel Colon blooped a single into left field and his pinch runner, Brenden Keller was later advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Grant Oberholtzer.
With one out and a man on second, Peterson roped a fastball off Trojans reliever Blake Smith into left center field for an RBI double to put Hempfield on top one last time.
"He (Smith) threw me like four curve balls before that and I don't know what changed his mind but my first swing against the curve ball was pretty ugly," Peterson said. "I'm actually quite surprised he threw a fastball but once I saw it coming down the middle, I swung at it. It's that simple."
Before Peterson's heroics at the plate, he put in five solid innings for the Knights on the mound; striking out nine batters while allowing just three hits and a walk.
"The breaking ball was really working. Jon Beck did a phenomenal job behind the dish calling it. We disagree on some calls but he's mostly there trying to craft them up," Peterson said. "All three pitches were working so it's a good day."
Peterson got some early run support when the Knights were able to hang four runs on the Trojans in the bottom of the first thanks to RBI by Beck (2), Ben Lukawski and Tim Gailor.
Hershey starter Gavin Hellman went three innings and gave up two hits and seven walks while striking out one.
Things would get murky in the second inning however when three Hempfield errors allowed Hershey to manufacture two runs and tighten the game up.
"You just have to keep your composure. Whatever happened is in the past and you can't do anything about it. You have to just focus on the next hitter because that's all you can control," Peterson said. "Even Major Leaguers make errors."
"I didn't take a mound visit there because he's (Peterson) in control and is pretty good with the infielders," Morrison said. "I have the ultimate trust in him. He's a low maintenance guy."
The Trojans would later score in the top of the fifth and then tie the game in the top of the sixth when Micah Seiwert hit an RBI single off Hempfield reliever Derek Manning.
After Peterson's eventual game-winning double in the bottom of the frame, the Knights staved off any Trojans comeback in the seventh to avoid the upset.
"That's been the story of the season," Morrison said. "Every game, somebody has a moment where they're the guy and they make it happen." Hempfield will now play no. 8 Cedar Cliff in a rematch of last year's district title game in which the Colts defeated the Knights 11-5.
Cedar Cliff defeated no. 9 Ephrata, 4-3 on Monday.