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NTL BASEBALL: SHAFFER SCORES GAME WINNER AS WYALUSING EDGES CALVARY CHRISTIAN TO REACH STATE SEMIFINALS (2024-06-07)

BY CHRIS MANNING
Northern Tier Sports Report
PINE GROVE — Wyalusing’s Isaac Shaffer was rounding third base hard. Despite there being two outs and Kenny Mapes seemingly flying out to the left fielder, Shaffer wanted to make sure he was in position to score from second should anything happened. Then something did happen, the left fielder lost the ball in the night sky and Shaffer stomped on home plate to give the Rams a 2-1 walk-off win in the bottom of the seventh to send them to the PIAA, Class AA semifinals Thursday.

“It was dark and way up there,” Shaffer said about the pop fly. “I was like, ‘man, I can’t even see that,’ so I just had to run hard just in case it dropped.”


After he rounded third he didn’t look back, his only sign that the ball had fallen being his teammates streaming out of the dugout.


“I saw all my teammates jumping up and down,” explained Shaffer. “I wasn’t looking, I was just hustling.”


The run capped a gritty, defensive minded win by Wyalusing as they fought off a pesky Cougar squad that never seemed to go away.


“We like to please the crowd,” said coach Nick Vanderpool. “They drove a long ways so we wanted to give them something,”


Despite having not started for a month Trehnon Hugo took the mound and went 6 1/3-innings with nine strikeouts, seven walks, two hits, and one earned run. Parker Petlock came on for the final two-thirds, and gets the win, striking out one with one hit and one walk.


“Trehnon pitched a hell of a game, hats off to him,” Vanderpool said. “He obviously kept us in the game as our offense struggled tonight.”


Calvary’s hitters couldn’t touch Hugo’s fast ball, and the only time they threatened was when Hugo struggled to find the strike zone. 


“I haven’t pitched since Troy, and to come back, throwing hard, it felt good,” said Hugo. “I just wanted to live in the zone, and let them try and hit it. If they put it in play, I know my defense was behind me.”


Despite shuffling the infield in order to let Hugo, normally the shortstop, pitch the Rams didn’t record an error. In fact, they turned two big inning ending double plays - Petlock (second base) to CJ Carr (short stop) to Hunter House (first base).


Carr usually plays second, so he’s the one that typically starts the double play, but on Thursday he turned them like he’d been doing it his entire career.


“It felt great,” he said. “Just coming up big for the team. We practice it everyday in practice. I’ll take reps at both short and second, and it just comes natural.”


He has the full backing up his coach when takes over for Hugo at short stop.


“CJ is probably the second or third best shortstop in the league, he just has the best short stop in the league on his team,” Vanderpool said. “We really don’t miss the beat when CJ’s over there. Parker was the lead guy in both those double plays, which were both huge because there were runners on first and second.”


Mapes was responsible for both runs scoring. He plated Hugo with a double over the center fielder’s head in the third inning for the 1-0 lead, and then he hit sky high pop up to bring in Shaffer in the seventh. 


He also had another bomb in the fifth but right fielder Ben Wilson had the catch of the game, making a diving grab near the warning track to rob the Rams of two runs.


“I made good contact all night after I struck out in the first inning,” Mapes said. “It was the first time seeing this pitcher, definitely not the speed we’re used to. When I hit that ball to center field I saw his back turn and I knew it was going to drop. It felt really nice to get on the board - I would have liked a little bit more insurance runs for Hugo, but it’s a great performance by him. On the line drive to right field they had a big shift on, and I can’t believe that kid caught that. It’s baseball, it’s a crazy sport, anything can happen.”


Kaeden Kusmierz (2-for-3) reached on all three plate appearances with Hugo (1-for-2) and Shaffer (1-for-3) getting their other hits. Hugo also drew two walks on the night.


Caleb Leader kept Wyalusing off balance all night, getting them to fly out repeatedly as the Cougars stayed within striking distance. He struck out five with two walks, five hits, and two runs, one of which was earned.


“If you look back at the course of their careers we always struggle off these junk ball pitchers,” said Vanderpool. “That’s one of the slower pitchers we saw all year, but he just mixed them up enough. We didn’t have good approaches at the plate, we seemed to go up there guessing instead of sitting on a pitch. It is what it is, but sometimes you’ve got to win ugly - hopefully that’s the bad offensive performance for the tournament.”


Wilson (1-for-3) also drove in the game tying run, while Jake Torressen and Brian Weed, the seventh and ninth batters, both walked three times.


Leader (1-for-3) and Adam Snyder (1-for-2) had the other hits.


Neither team threatened in the first but in the bottom of the second Wyalusing rallied with two outs as Kusmierz singled. Petlock then reached on an error, with both runners settling on second and third.


Leader, though, got the next batter to fly out to end the inning.


After cruising through the first two innings, retiring the first six batters he faced, Hugo ran into trouble in the top of the third as he walked two of the first three hitters he faced.


His defense had his back, though, as the Rams turned the first of their two double plays, capped off with a House scoop at first to end the inning.


The Rams then rallied with two outs in the third, again. Hugo singled then stole second, setting up Mapes’ big double for the 1-0 lead.


Hugo struck out three of the four batters he faced in the top of the fourth, while in the bottom half it was Calvary Christian’s turn to get out of a jam as they turned a double play.


In the top of the fifth the Cougars used another pair of walks to put runners on first and second with two outs, but Hugo induced a ground out to end the threat.


Carr would reach on a 1-out error in the top of the sixth, then Hugo walked two batters later. They would be on second and third when Mapes hit the bomb to right center that Wilson nabbed to keep it a 1-run game.


It looked like Calvary Christian would finally break through in the top of the sixth as they had a lead-off walk followed by a hit. 


However, the Rams got the lead runner at third on a steal attempt, with Shaffer throwing him out. Another walk to put runners on first and second, but that’s when Wyalusing pulled out their second double play of the game to get out of the jam.


“Playing lights out defense kept us in that game,” said Carr. “We were able to win at the end, but defense was what won us that game.”


“It feels really good that, even with a missed pitch, they can turn to get out of an inning,” added Hugo.


The Cougars finally broke through in the seventh. After getting the first batter to ground out - it was a come backer to Hugo that he barehanded and threw to first - Hugo walked the next batter and hit his pitch limit.


Petlock came in to pitch, and Gary Wilcox came in to run. He would steal second, then took home on a Wilson single to left field. A high hop at the lip of the outfield prevented a play at the plate, and it was all of a sudden 1-1 with the go ahead runner on first. 


Weed would draw a walk to put two runners on and the top of the order up, but Petlock struck out the next batter, then got the final out on a fly-out to Logan Norton to get out of the jam.


Shaffer led off the bottom half of the inning, followed by the top of the order.


“Just anyway on base,” Shaffer was thinking. “It doesn’t matter if I get a hit, walk, bloop, error, whatever, I just needed to get on base.”


He hit a bloop right in front of the left fielder for a hit, then was pushed to second on a Carr bunt.


Leader would get a strikeout after that to put Calvary Christian 1-out away from extra innings.


They intentionally walked Hugo to get the force at third, setting up Mapes to be the hero.


“I couldn’t believe it,” Mapes said about the intentional walk. “Hugo, he smashed the ball in the 3-hole, so I understand why they walked him, to set up the force play, but, obviously, I had two balls in the air earlier. I’m seeing the ball well right now. The coach got what he wanted, an easy pop up by me, it just didn’t go his way this time.”


Wyalusing will play the winner of District XI champion Tri Valley (19-4) and the District III champions, Delone Catholic (15-7) on Monday at a time and place to be determined. Those two teams will play on Friday - Tri-Valley beat South Williamsport, 10-9, in the first round while Delone Catholic won 4-3 over Mountain View.


Hunter House will be back on the mound, but the Rams know they’ll need to generate more than five hits if they’re going to win as they left seven runners on base against Calvary Christian.


“We’ll probably get more live pitching by Monday,” Carr said. “We’ll get Hunter back on the mound, and try to make the state title.”


— — 


PHOTO CAPTION: Wyalusing’s Isaac Shaffer scores the game winning run against Calvary Christian Thursday…PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING



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