D2 BASEBALL: DiMattia, Old Forge down Holy Cross

OLD FORGE — Two scores were written on a white board in the Old Forge dugout.

"2022: Holy Cross 6, Old Forge 2"

"2023: Mountain View 3, Old Forge 1"

They were reminders to this year's team of how the past two seasons ended in the playoffs.

The Blue Devils avenged one of those losses Tuesday. They scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning and T.J. DiMattia made it stand in a 5-2 victory over Holy Cross in the District 2 Class 2A quarterfinals at Forti Field at Pagnotti Park.

Up next for Old Forge: Stop No. 2 on its "revenge tour" Thursday at top-seeded Mountain View in the semifinals.

"That's the goal," Old Forge coach Tony DiMattia. "We've been talking to the players now about it for a week once we knew where (the bracket) was going to fall for the most part."

Holy Cross and Old Forge split their two meetings during the Lackawanna League Division III season. So each knew the importance of getting out to a fast start.

"That was something we talked about all week," T.J. DiMattia said. "We see the first inning as the most important inning. You've got to win the first inning because it sets the tone for the entire game. We did that."

With one out in the bottom of the first, Joe Granko fouled off several pitches from Holy Cross starter Brayden Sherry before working a walk in a nine-pitch at-bat. He took second and third on wild pitches and scored on a double down the right-field line by DiMattia.

"He (Sherry) wasn't really finding his offspeed early in the game," T.J. DiMattia said. "So I was just sitting on a fastball, trying to look on the outside half. I got one and he kind of beat me a bit, but I was able to put a bit of a barrel on it to where it was hit hard enough to get past the first baseman and get down the line."

After Dom Palma was hit by a pitch, he and DiMattia advanced to second and third, respectively, on a wild pitch. Luke Olivieri then had an RBI single to score DiMattia and Frank Pero lofted a sacrifice fly to plate Pero and make it 3-0.

Relievers Tyler Musso and Kyle Cortazar did a good job of limiting the Blue Devils the rest of the way and keeping the Crusaders in the game.

Musso pitched two innings and allowed two runs with two outs in the bottom of the third. Palma scored on a wild pitch and Joe DiStasi had an RBI single. Cortazar, in his first game back after missing six weeks because of mononucleosis, threw three scoreless innings with one hit and four strikeouts.

However, DiMattia made sure to protect the lead.

"We knew coming in T.J. was going to be tough to beat," Holy Cross coach Sandy Menichetti said. "We'd have to score a couple of runs and our pitching would have to hold up. They did a good job of jumping on us first and that was all they really needed. We tried to put some things together in some innings. Just couldn't get consecutive hits off T.J."

DiMattia pitched 6⅓ innings, throwing 106 pitches. The junior allowed two unearned runs on two hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

"It was a struggle. I didn't have it today," DiMattia said. "But credit to my defense, they made plays behind me. They hit some balls hard, but we got lucky and it was hit right at some people. Props to them for being able to put the bat on the ball and making it tough on me."

Nic Borgia led off the top of the fourth with a walk, stole second and scored on a error on a ball hit by when A.J. Piestrak to bring the Crusaders within 5-1.

A hit batter and a two-out single by Freddie Ceccacci in the fifth put Holy Cross runners at the corners. But DiMattia ended the threat with a strikeout.

Consecutive errors with one out in the sixth again put Crusaders at the corners. Josh Lentowski's RBI fielder's choice made it 5-2 before DiMattia got a foul popout to end the inning.

To open the top of the seventh, Musso drew a leadoff walk. DiMattia got a pop-up for the first out, but reached the 105-pitch limit. Granko came on and recorded the final two outs to seal the victory.

"He probably didn't have his quality fastball today and definitely didn't have the slider he's had in his last three starts," coach DiMattia said. "But credit to him, he was able to get himself out of jams."

Now, Old Forge meets a Mountain View team that ended its season last year. The Blue Devils will likely face Eagles ace Riley Jagger, who beat them last year, striking out eight in five innings and wriggling out of three bases-loaded situations unscathed.

"It feels sweet to finally get a win under my belt," T.J. DiMattia said. "They're a tough opponent Thursday, we know what we're going to get. Same kid as we saw last year, so we're going to be ready for it. It's going to be a battle, but we've prepared for this all year. We've wanted this."

Old Forge 5, Holy Cross 2

Holy Cross 000 101 0 — 2

Old Forge 302 000 x — 5

WP: TJ DiMattia 6⅓IP, 2H, 2R, 0ER, 3BB, 6SO

LP: Brayden Sherry 1IP, 2H, 3R, 3ER, 1BB, 1SO

2B: TJ DiMattia (OF), Jake Iacavazzi (OF).

Pitches: HC: Sherry 40, Musso 34, Cortazar 42; OF: DiMattia 106, Granko 9

Records: HC 7-13; OF 11-9