Pleasant Valley walks off against K-Kids
Baseball is a game of inches.
And sometimes, it’s the smallest margin that can spell the difference between winning and losing.
The ball bounced Pleasant Valley’s way Monday in a walk-off, 2-1 victory over Northampton in a District 11 Class 6A first round game.
With the bases loaded and one out, Danny McEvoy lofted a fly ball to right field that fell in, allowing Brandon Ratti to score from third base to send the Bears to Wednesday’s quarterfinals against top seed Parkland.
“You can’t take away from what these guys did,” said Northampton head coach Mick Sugra. “We battled back and won five of out of the last seven to qualify, so we got hot at the right time. We just didn’t do the job here today.”
McEvoy’s pop up to right field was ruled to have landed in fair territory after Northampton fielders converged on the ball to make a play, and Ratti raced home to score the winning run.
“We had the opportunity there with the bases loaded, and less than two outs, and we were scoring a run one way or the other there on that play,” said Lazowski. “If he happened to catch that ball, he (Ratti) was tagging and coming home.”
Ratti worked a one-out walk to start the rally before stealing second base. Back-to-back intentional walks to Nick Gattuso and Trevor Knappenberger loaded the bases for cleanup hitter McEvoy.
“Fortunately, it went our way this time,” said Pleasant Valley head coach Jeff Lazowski. “There’s been a couple times this year that it didn’t go our way; a hop here, a hop there; or a fly ball there, and it didn’t go our way.
“But fortunately today, the sun was shining bright on us, and here we are, moving on to Wednesday.”
The eighth-seeded Bears took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning when Matt Burnett’s (2-for-3) two-out RBI single scored McEvoy.
Isaac Tucker scored in the top of the fourth inning for the No. 9 seed Konkrete Kids to tie the score at 1-1 until Pleasant Valley walked it off in the bottom of the seventh.
“It was a close game, we just tell the guys to stay loose,” said Sugra. “We try to put them in those pressure situations in practices and stuff like that, so come game time they’re used to it. But what can you say? They (Pleasant Valley) played a heck of a game, we played a heck of a game, it came down to the end there and it is what it is.”
Both starting pitchers showed poise on the mound.
Travis Knappenberger allowed four hits and walked one while recording one strikeout in six innings of work for the Bears (13-8).
Northampton’s (10-11) Cole Rufe gave up seven hits and issued three walks, striking out three while throwing 98 pitches.
“Give them credit, they battled just like we did,” Sugra said. “We started the game with a base hit, and we had runners in scoring position multiple times, and we just didn’t get that key hit.
“We hit the ball hard. But our season in a nutshell, hit the ball hard, but right at people.”
Sugra is hoping the team learns from the postseason experience and comes back even stronger next year.
“(I want them) to be big, breathe in greatness, (and) accept that role that you’re gonna be in pressure situations,” he said. “Want to be the guy that gets that big hit; want to be the guy that’s up there in that situation with the go-ahead run on second base.
“Cole Rufe is a junior, and we expect big things from him next year. But everything’s gotta be a learning experience.”
Pleasant Valley did not play Parkland, which had a first round bye, in the regular season.
HITTERS … Tucker Brittain Shander, Kyle Morin and Seth Lakey had hits for Northampton. Gattuso, Brent Beck, Collin Stivala and Justin Stasiak also had hits for Pleasant Valley.
TWO-FOR-TWO … In their only regular season meeting on April 14, Pleasant Valley defeated Northampton 7-6.