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H.S. Baseball/Softball: Four WVC teams seeking trips to state semifinals

Jun. 5—The first round of the PIAA baseball and softball state playoffs on Monday went perfect for the Wyoming Valley Conference.

Four teams entered and four came out with victories.

Now comes the quarterfinals on Thursday. Only Dallas baseball survived to play beyond that round in 2023.

Dallas is back and joined by Hazleton Area and MMI Prep. Pittston Area is the lone softball team still alive.

Tickets are now $8 — plus (drum roll) a processing fee — and are available only at piaa.org by clicking on the link in either the softball or baseball brackets.

Here's a look at the four games Thursday involving WVC teams.

Pittston Area (19-1) vs. Mechanicsburg (21-6)

PIAA 5A Softball Quarterfinals

Noon Thursday

Patriots Park, Allentown

District 3 third seed Mechanicsburg has a brief state playoff history. The Wildcats lost in the first round last season and then defeated District 1 champion Marple-Newtown 7-4 in the first round this year.

That's it. Two games. And getting to that second game was a challenge. Mechanicsburg was seeded fourth and needed a pair of nine-inning victories in the district tournament to move to states. The Wildcats' only district loss was 6-1 to unbeaten South Western.

Marple-Newtown jumped to a 4-0 lead after one inning, but Mechanicsburg's Sam Rybacki settled in and shut down the District 1 champion the rest of the way. The Wildcats finally erased the deficit in the fifth inning.

District 2 champion Pittston Area won the Class 5A state title in 2022, but a loss in the district championship game last year ended any repeat hopes.

Offensive consistency was an issue last season. The Patriots are hitting much better with Gianna Adams, Tori Stephenson, Lili Hintze and Gabby Gorzkowski all hitting over .400. The offense was on display in the state opener as Pittston Area overwhelmed District 12 runner-up Little Flower 19-0 in three innings.

As expected, Adams had no problems with Little Flower hitters. She racked up her sixth no-hitter and four perfect game — albeit abbreviated — of the season. She now has 251 strikeouts in 114 innings pitch and 770 strikeouts in her four-year career.

The winner plays in the semifinals Monday against either District 3 champion South Western (23-0) or District 3 fourth seed Shippensburg (14-11).

Hazleton Area (20-4) vs. Neshaminy (21-3)

PIAA 6A Baseball Quarterfinals

Noon Thursday

DeSales University

Neshaminy entered the District 1 playoffs as the second seed. The Skins (formerly the Redskins) exited with the district's fifth seed in the state tournament.

Neshaminy lost in the second round 3-2 to Central Bucks East, the team Hazleton Area defeated 1-0 in its state opener. The Skins battled back with a pair of victories to secure a state berth. Now they are trying to get to the state semifinals for the third time in school history. This is their seventh visit to the quarterfinals.

Starter Luke Schweiker and reliever Steven Martin combined on a no-hitter in a 4-0 victory over Bethlehem Liberty in the opening round of states. Neither reached 75 pitches, so both are available to throw. Schweiker had some control issues, walking six in four innings. Liberty left the bases loaded in the second and stranded a pair in the third.

Brandon Lall led the offense, hitting a double and a key two-run single in the seventh. Joe Bonner and Stone Powell also contributed to the attack.

District 2 champ Hazleton Area is in the quarterfinals for a third time and will be attempting to make the semifinals for only a second time. Getting to this point wasn't easy.

The Cougars received an excellent pitching performance from Jonas Aponick in the 1-0 win over CB East. Lefty Antonio Doganiero, a Pitt recruit, seems all but certain to take the mound vs. Neshaminy. He last pitched May 30 in a 6-2 win over Williamsport in the D2/4 Class 6A subregional championship.

Hazleton Area, though, managed just two hits and neither figured in the Cougars scoring the only run in the bottom of the seventh.

The winner plays in the semifinals on Monday against either D1 champion Downingtown East (18-6) or D12 champion La Salle College (22-3).

Dallas (20-4) vs. Holy Ghost Prep (13-8)

PIAA 4A Baseball Quarterfinals

3:30 p.m. Thursday

DeSales University

After a pair of walk-off, one-run victories to secure the District 2 crown, Dallas finally had an easier time in a 13-2 six-inning victory over District 3 runner-up ELCO in the first round. Dom Zangardi's three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth ended the game via the 10-run rule.

Sam Barrouk, a St. Bonaventure commit, allowed just two hits in pitching a complete game. He wasn't as overpowering as in the district championship game as he only struck out two. He threw 74 pitches so he can throw Thursday if needed, although Zach Paczewski, a Radford recruit, seems the likely choice.

The offense was a bit top heavy as the top-three batters — Kaden Coyne, Paczewski and Gavin Adamski — went 6-for-10 with five RBI and eight runs scored. The Mountaineers won the Class 4A state title in 2017 and lost in the championship game last year.

District 1 champ Holy Ghost Prep has won five one-run games this year. That wasn't an issue in the Firebirds' state opener with District 12 runner-up Constitution.

While Holy Ghost Prep vs. Constitution would have made for a heck of a boys basketball game, the same couldn't be said about baseball. Prep wiped out Constitution 20-0 in three innings. The Firebirds didn't use either of their top two pitchers, instead relying on sophomore Killian McHugh to no-hit Constitution. Prep banged out 17 hits with Matthew Evans and Colin Davis having three RBI apiece.

There are several sophomores in the lineup and they are among the top hitters. Edwin Rosario is hitting over .400 while Jake Kenser is creeping toward that number. Prep's pitching duo of senior Justin Lucas and sophomore Matt Riendeau have impressive innings-to-strikeout ratios.

Prep lost in the Class 4A state championship game in 2022.

The winner plays in the semifinal Monday against either D12 champion Conwell-Egan (15-5) or D4 champion Danville (18-4).

MMI Prep (13-8) vs. Faith Christian (20-0)

PIAA A Baseball Quarterfinals

3 p.m. Thursday

Walter Stump Stadium, Pine Grove

District 1 champion Faith Christian just about stampeded every opponent during the regular season. The Lions' closest game was an 8-5 victory over Bristol. Then came the state playoff where they escaped with a 1-0 win over a .500 Pottsville Nativity team.

Starter Grayson Weikel and reliever Reid Miller combined to throw a no-hitter, with Weikel pitching six innings and striking out five. Faith Christian was confident enough not to use ace Noah Wilson, who will most likely get the start against MMI Prep.

Faith Christian managed to scratch out a run in the third on a double by Wilson. The Lions have scored 11 or more runs 13 times. However, a majority of their games were against Class A teams, whereas MMI Prep played exclusively Class 3A and 4A teams in the Wyoming Valley Conference.

Faith Christian is making its fourth state appearance and has never ventured beyond this point.

MMI Prep hasn't made it past the quarterfinals in three previous state tournaments. This possibly could be the year the Preppers do.

The team is similar to the boys basketball team where they are a group of seniors — Andy Burns, John Drobnock, Lex Lispi, Heath Williams and Zack Yenchko — who have plenty of experience. Burns threw a no-hitter in the District 2 championship game and gave up one hit in an 11-1 five-inning win over District 4 champion Millville in the state opener.

Burns threw 71 pitches against Millville and is eligible to pitch Thursday per PIAA rules. The offense had 11 hits, with Mike Kranyak driving in four runs and Williams adding two RBI.

The winner plays in the semifinals Monday against either District 5 runner-up Southern Fulton (20-5) or District 6 champ Bishop McCort (15-8).