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Palmyra baseball reaches district final

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DILLSBURG - They're not going to blaze many fastballs by you.

They're going to put even fewer over your head.

But if you were unlucky enough to land in their crosshairs over the last month, the Palmyra baseball team nonetheless beat you.

And now these same Cougars are going to do what only two AAA ball clubs can every spring: play for a district title.

Isaac Blatt hurled his fifth consecutive complete game to guide Palmyra past Bishop McDevitt, 1-0, in a District Three Class AAA tournament semifinal Tuesday for its 10th straight win. Blatt allowed four hits over a highly efficient afternoon, which yielded only two for the Cougars (17-6) off Crusaders starter Joe Mione. The first, Bradey Powell's leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth, enabled Dylan Spagnolo to drive him home three at-bats later on a sacrifice fly.

Fifth-seeded Palmyra is set to meet No. 14 Hamburg in the district title game Thursday at First Energy Stadium, home of the Reading Fightin' Phils, at 6:30 p.m. It will be the program's first district championship appearance since 2003.

"They're achieving things I didn't think they could do," Cougars coach Tim Gingrich said. "I think we're pretty confident in our abilities, and we have people set just right in their positions and they're comfortable in them."

None more comfortable than Blatt, who escaped his biggest jam during the top of the fifth with two runners aboard. Having just picked off his second Crusader of the day, Blatt was victimized by an infield error and ensuing single courtesy of Bret Bitting (team-high two hits). However, the tall right-hander quickly buckled down to induce a harmless fly ball out of leadoff hitter Jake Leibig.

"I just had to keep throwing strikes and get ahead of him," Blatt said. "And then that last pitch got him to pop up."

Through Powell, the Cougars then snapped a no-hit bid from Mione, who finished with three strikeouts and a matching trio of walks. Powell's hit led to three straight sacrifice attempts, the first of which was booted by McDevitt, affording.Palmyra two runners free of charge. After freshman Jacob Wagner next executed another bunt, Spagnolo lifted a high Mione offering deep enough into center field that Powell could find safe haven at home.

The resulting roar revealed an elated Cougars dugout, but there was a far different feeling in the gut of their ace.

"Just relief," Blatt laughed.

And the relief would return quickly, as Wagner snared one of the hardest hit McDevitt balls of the day on a full-extension dive for the first out of the sixth inning. The Crusaders soon went quietly from there, eventually punctuating their defeat with a 1-2-3 seventh.

"You're just expecting it after a while. We're like in cruise control," Gingrich said of his team's recent run. "Just feels good right now. It's tough to explain."

Lucky for the 20-year skipper, there's no need to explain.

The results say it all.