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Wilson defeats Gov. Mifflin to win first Berks baseball title since 2019

May 14—After losing two championship games at FirstEnergy Stadium last season, Wilson was determined to reverse its fortunes.

The No. 3 seed Bulldogs revenged those losses Monday night in a rematch of the 2023 Berks Baseball League final, defeating rival and top-seeded Gov. Mifflin 10-3 at FirstEnergy Stadium to earn their first county title since 2019.

The Mustangs defeated the Bulldogs 6-3 in last year's final before Wilson fell to Cedar Cliff 7-1 in the District 3 Class 6A championship game.

"It feels good," Bulldogs coach Bill Underwood said. "We had a tough one last year. We lost in the Berks final and the district final at the same field, and we knew we had a tough one coming into tonight.

"It's a rivalry. Give credit to (Mustangs coach) Chris Hole and what he's been able to do with his team year-in and year-out. To be able to play them each year for a division and county title is special. It really drives our guys to work hard and motivates them to do well."

Sophomore shortstop Jack Gabel was 2-for-3 with a three-run home run, a two-run single and a walk (16-6) .

He also struck out three batters and allowed no hits in pitching the last 1 2/3 innings, taking the mound with a 9-3 lead. He relieved starter Matt VanOstenbridge, who earned the win for Wilson.

Gabel's three-run home run off of Gov. Mifflin junior starter Ethan Grim hit the foul pole and went out into the left field seats to give Wilson a 4-2 lead in the top of the third. He later hit a two-run single to right field in the sixth to extend the Bulldogs' lead to 9-3.

"The home run was a game-changer," Underwood said. "And for him to come in with a nice cushion and throw some strikes and being able to get some outs was nice."

"I know he has good velocity and I just wanted to put a good swing on it," Gabel said about his home run. "I got it middle-in, that's my favorite pitch, and I saw it kind of bending down the line, but fortunately it stayed (fair).

"I've hit ones (home runs) at shorter fences, but this is a deep ballpark so I wasn't really expecting to do that.

"I'm not one to get a lot of RBIs and five in one game, I've never done that."

Earlier in the third before Gabel's home run, senior Tommy Hunsicker hit an RBI single to open the scoring for the Bulldogs. Moments later, senior Cooper Kennedy hit an RBI double with two outs to give Wilson a 5-2 lead.

The Bulldogs added a run in the top of the fifth when junior Christo Hunsicker hit an RBI single that scored his brother, Tommy Hunsicker.

Senior Nick Fiorini then hit a hard line drive to right center field for another RBI single to make it 7-2 in the fifth.

Wilson finished the game with 10 hits.

"We don't have a weak link in our lineup," VanOstenbridge said. "From top to bottom, everyone hits the ball really well."

"Facing a great pitcher like Ethan Grim, to put up that amount of hits is something you don't see a lot of teams do," Gabel said.

Gov. Mifflin (17-4) had the hotter start with the Mustangs scoring two runs off three hits in the first inning. Junior Travis Jenkins hit a sacrifice fly to score the first run before junior Dylan Barrett brought another run home with an RBI single.

VanOstenbridge responded well, retiring Gov. Mifflin 1-2-3 in the bottom of the second. The Mustangs scored on a blooper to right field by Grim in the fifth inning for their final run.

VanOstenbridge finished with four strikeouts, three walks, eight hits and three runs allowed (two earned).

For Underwood, strong fielding behind the strong left-handed arm of Penn State commit VanOStenbridge combined for holistic success that was missing previously.

"I think nerves got to Matt a little bit in the beginning," Underwood said. "But he did a fantastic job in keeping us in the game. And then they hit some balls that were hard, but our guys were right where they needed to be.

"I think this was our best game that we put together because we pitched well, we hit the ball well and we actually fielded well too. That's kind of been our Achilles' heel a little bit was fielding, and to be able to play through that today (is why) I think this is one of our better all-around games."

Grim threw 5 1/3 innings for Gov. Mifflin and struck out seven. He allowed seven hits and eight runs (seven earned).

He hit a double and went 2-for-4 at the plate.

"It's always disappointing when you lose," Gov. Mifflin coach Chris Hole said. "I told the boys out there in the huddle, I've been on both ends of it and you just gotta keep your head level. We got to come back and get ready for the next tournament. And credit to them, they played a great game tonight and capitalized on some of our mistakes."

After Grim was pulled in the sixth with one out and a runner on second, sophomore R.J. Weaver came on in relief.

Weaver gave up a sacrifice bunt and a walk before Gabel hit his RBI double

Senior John Bodnar closed out the scoring for Wilson with an RBI double in the top of the seventh.

The Bulldogs won both meetings against the Mustangs in the regular season.

For VanOstenbridge, winning a county championship against his team's biggest rival is special. Wilson fell to Gov. Mifflin 5-4 in the 2021 Berks championship game when he was a freshman.

"I've been thinking about (winning) it ever since that freshman loss," VanOstenbridge said. "We just had to come back and shut 'em down.