D-11 BASEBALL: Minersville breaks open tight game, beats Schuylkill Haven to reach final

PINE GROVE — By all appearances, Sunday’s District 11 Class AA baseball semifinal between Minersville and Schuylkill Haven was going to be another close matchup.

After all, each team had won a one-run decision during the squads’ Schuylkill League Division II games in 2024.

Sunday’s game at Walter Stump Stadium turned out quite differently.

Entering the seventh inning in a 1-1 deadlock, Minersville exploded for seven runs and walked away from Walter Stump Stadium with an 8-1 victory over a Hurricane squad that was the bracket’s top seed.

“It was shocking, very shocking, in my opinion,” Minersville’s Logan Hutsko said of the big inning, in which he contributed a key two-run single.

With the victory, Minersville brings a 12-10 record into Wednesday’s scheduled district final against Tri-Valley, which beat Palisades 11-1 in the game immediately preceding the Battlin’ Miners’ victory.

Minersville’s win hardly appeared certain for most of Sunday’s matchup, but head coach Shane Spotts knew the type of players he had in his dugout.

“They stayed at it. They were resilient,” Spotts said. “This group, these kids have a fire to them. They like the fighter’s chance, and we were giving ourselves a fighter’s chance, that if we keep punching, eventually we would break through and we did big-time there.”

In the seventh, singles by A.J. Halford and Logan Rizzardi, bracketed around a sacrifice bunt by Garrett Sukeena, began the rally. After Easton Schultz was hit by a pitch from losing reliever Hunter Correll to load the bases, Correll issued bases-loaded passes to Camden Rogers and Matthew Dube.

A fielder’s choice, hit by Lorenzo Yourey, erased Schultz at home plate for the second out, but Hutsko followed with his two-run single. After another walk, Halford returned to the plate and hit a two-run single, followed one batter later by a bases-loaded walk to Rizzardi.

It was an uprising that surprised Schuylkill Haven’s longtime head coach, Scott Buffington.

“Just like that, they scored runs and the wheels kept falling off,” he said. “There’s no solution to it. They’re in the district final and we’re not.”

Schuylkill Haven had taken a 1-0 lead in the opening inning. Aidan Clauser reached on an errant throw, stole second base and scored on Correll’s single.

That edge held up until the fourth. Schuylkill Haven starter Sean Seven walked Halford to begin the inning and used a groundout and a wild pitch to reach third base. Seven then balked Halford across the plate.

Later in the inning, Correll replaced Seven on the mound and got the final two ours. He then allowed four hits over the next two innings before Minersville’s decisive outburst in the seventh. Conlan Buletz relieved Correll to get the final out in the seventh.

After giving up the first-inning run, Minersville pitcher Nolan Plesnarski tossed six shutout innings and stranded eight Schuylkill Haven baserunners along the way.

“He’s not a thrower. He’s a pitcher,” Spott said about the sophomore right-hander. “He locates, he throws his offspeed pitches for strikes and he’s a bulldog out there. He did a heck of a job today.”

The only batter who succeeded with regularity against Plesnarski was Alan Evans, who went 4-for-4 for half of the Hurricanes’ hits.

“They couldn’t get him out. He’s a competitor,” Buffington said. “I’m glad he’s going to be around for a few more years.”

For now, though, one thing was clear to the Schuylkill Haven head coach.

“The season’s over. We’ll play again next year,” he said.

The situation for Minersville is more immediate with a game against Schuylkill League Division II foe Tri-Valley ahead with the season on the line.

“In any baseball game, we’re going to have throw strikes, field the ball and put the ball in play, no matter how many times we strike out,” Spotts said. “They’ve got some good arms over there. We’re going to have to do our very best to put the pressure to them.”