Liberty outlasts Parkland for title
For the optimists in the room, Parkland has won three of the last five District 11 baseball championships. The pessimists will dwell on the fact that two years in a row now, Parkland has been in the district final, but didn’t put away a win to take home gold.
This year’s foray into the championship game ended with a 2-1 loss to Liberty in extra innings. A ninth-inning sacrifice fly from Caleb Tereska drove home what proved to be the winning run.
One of the keys coming in for the Trojans was to get another strong outing from Ryan Giovenco, which they did. The senior threw seven innings, but with the game tied 1-1 after the regulation seven, the Trojans would have needed even more. Giovenco could have likely provided the extra mileage, but the new PIAA rule limiting pitchers to 100 pitches ended his day.
“He was good again,” said Parkland head coach Kurt Weber. “He gets better as the game goes on, but he got to 95 [pitches] and you have to kind of get him out. Early in the games, that’s the iffy part for him, but after he settled in he really kept us in the game. He did enough for us to win.”
Liberty did get to Giovenco early, scoring a first-inning run on a bases-loaded single from Gabe Albino. Elias Gross tried to score from second on the play, but center fielder Cullan Wadsworth threw a strike from center field to nail Gross at the plate.
Parkland scored a run off starter Liberty Mike Perreault in the third and knocked him out of the game an inning later.
A base hit from Matt Mellinger was followed by a double from Austin Mueller to put runners on second and third. Mike Jenkins drew a walk and Will Algard worked a walk to force home a run, tying the game 1-1.
Perreault avoided further damage, but when Parkland put runners on first and second with two outs in the fourth, Perreault was lifted in favor of Sammy Kraihanzel.
Unfortunately for the Trojans, Kraihanzel was up to the task and gave Liberty five and one-third innings of near perfect relief, with just an error on a ball hit to third blemishing his record.
“We did things right, but we couldn’t get that extra run that we needed,” said Weber. “The pitching was there, the defense was there, but they kept us off the bases and that was the story.”
Defensively, Jenkins put on a show at third base. He made one stellar play after another, including diving catches on two bunt attempts, and another diving grab of a line drive.
Two disputed plays came up late in the game.
In the eighth, with the Hurricanes’ Jared Burcin on third and two out, Perreault hit a pop-up near home plate that eluded three infielders. The ball hit the turf and Burcin scampered across the plate, even though the ball had bounced and gone foul.
Liberty argued that Mueller, Parkland’s catcher, had touched the ball in fair territory, but the umpires ruled that the ball wasn’t touched and the play was dead on a foul ball. Perreault then flew out to center to end the threat.
The winning run scored on a close play at the plate that could have gone either way.
“Off the naked eye, I thought it was a good call,” Weber said. “We saw some pictures of it that it was a good call.”
Even with the loss, Parkland had qualified for the PIAA playoffs by virtue of winning their semifinal game. The loss did mean that the Trojans had to play their first round state contest in Boyertown rather than returning to Lehigh University’s Legacy Field as the home team.
As has been the norm lately for Parkland, Monday’s game against Pennsbury went extra innings, with Parkland dropping another 2-1 decision to the Falcons, which eliminated them from the tournament and ended their season at 18-9.