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Vincentian tops SF in 8 innings, 4-3, in PIAA quarterfinal

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After the first inning of Thursday's PIAA Class A quarterfinal, the Southern Fulton baseball team had all of the game's momentum swinging in its favor.

The team held a 2-0 lead thanks to a gutsy steal of home by Zach Clark, and starting pitcher Carl Potter set the tone defensively.

But fast forward to the top of the sixth, and it looked to be a completely different ballgame.

Southern Fulton let the lead slip, and allowed Vincentian to force extra innings before taking it all in a 4-3 walk-off win for the Royals, sending Southern Fulton (19-5) home from the postseason.

"My only worry was throwing strikes early, and after the first inning we felt pretty confident," Potter said. "We felt really good in the beginning; we just fell short."

Vincentian (15-3) will play Serra Catholic, a 3-1 winner over Rocky Grove, in the state semifinals Monday.

Holding a 3-1 lead after the top of the sixth, Southern Fulton relieved Potter with its ace, Trent Rider. But a few bad hops and fielding miscues in the bottom of the inning shifted momentum into Vincentian's favor, bringing in two unearned runs to tie the game at three.

"Something changed in them," Southern Fulton coach Dustin Fischer said. "When Trent is on the mound they are very confident, so I don't know what happened. The fielders let Trent down, that's what sucks."

In the top of the seventh, the Indians had a chance to gain an edge after Cooper Grove hit a single to center, followed by another hit to the middle by Mitch Potter with two outs on the board to put runners on first and third. But momentum stopped there as Gordon hit a grounder right to short for a quick play to end the inning. Southern Fulton hit into 13 ground ball outs, and flew out seven times.

The Indians retired the Royals in order in the bottom of the seventh, but went down in order in the top of the eighth.

Vincentian's first two batters in the eighth were easy outs for the Indians' defense, but back-to-back hits to right-center and a looping line drive hit just out of the reach of SF shortstop Dylan Gordon brought in the game-winning run for Vincentian's second straight extra-inning victory. Anthony Milicia, who had struck out in his previous two at bats, had the game-winning hit.

"Those walk-offs are great when you're on the right side of them," Vincentian coach Paul Quarantillo said. "I couldn't be happier for Anthony, who drove in the run. He had a tough day at the plate but he bowed his neck and did what he had to do."

"We gave them three runs," Fischer said. "They won on unearned runs, it's plain and simple. The errors were the demise of us."

Southern Fulton's four errors in the game could have been the result of an unfamiliar playing surface at Mount Aloysius College, according to Fischer, whose team had not played on a turf field yet this season.

"I could tell when we took infield we hadn't played on turf. It was evident," Fischer said. "Everything is just quicker, and (the balls) don't do what they typically do."

"A couple of the plays we made today were mental mistakes, and some were just not being used to the field, but that's no excuse to miss pop flies or anything," Gordon said. "Overall it was just mental mistakes. We played a good five innings, but after that it just started to slope downhill."