STATE COLLEGE —
Bishop McCort has been a hitting dynamo this season but has been especially productive in the past two games, pounding out 31 hits.
The Crimson Crushers ended their baseball season with a flourish on Friday, capturing the PIAA Class A championship with a convincing 14-2 victory over Montgomery in five innings at Penn State’s Medlar Field. McCort had 13 hits in the title game, including five extra-base hits with three doubles and two triples.
“My hitters have done a fantastic job all year,” said McCort assistant coach Josh Day. “We, throughout the year, have been able to make good contact, hit the ball well and work the counts. I’m really proud of the boys. I don’t think they were ever intimidated, no matter who was on the mound, in any game throughout the year. We’ve seen greater pitching throughout the entire season and I think that helped us in our playoff run.
“The kids worked hard the entire spring, inside drills and outside BP (batting practice). They did a fantastic job, especially stepping up in this game.”
The Crimson Crushers only hiccup in the state playoffs came against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the quarterfinals. McCort tore out to a 5-0 lead in that game and held advantages of 7-3 and 9-3 before the Chargers came storming back. The Crushers held on for a 9-8 win.
It served as a wake-up call for McCort, which left nothing to chance in the semifinals against Elk County Catholic and in the title tilt against the District 4 champion Red Raiders.
“I think that game made us realize that we definitely had to keep hitting throughout the entire game and not quit, and we had to keep pounding the ball,” said Crushers catcher Zach Varga.
While the Crushers were hitting the stuffing out of the ball, their prowess on the base paths has also kept teams on edge.
“We work hard in practice so our players can read pitchers, getting good jumps and being aggressive,” Day said. “We like to put pressure on teams by being aggressive and our kids have responded to that.”
McCort was the visitor on the scoreboard on Friday and that turned out to be a positive for the Crushers, who sent 12 batters to the plate on six hits and three Red Raiders errors in the first inning.
“McCort hit the ball well, but in our opinion, we should have been out of the first inning,” Montgomery coach Tom Persing said. “We made too many errors. You can’t give a good-hitting team like that more than three outs. We put the ball across the plate and they hit the ball. We didn’t make the plays. It didn’t look like they had a weak spot in their lineup. They played a really good game.”
Day said his team could bat whether it was the visitor or the home team.
“A couple times in the playoffs we lost the coin toss and we were the visitors, so that was something we talked about,” Day said. “We like being up first and putting a couple runs on the board early. That’s not a deterrent for us. Coming out and swinging early and building a little bit of a lead and giving the ball over to our pitchers with a little cushion is what we did today (Friday).”
Varga said that early lead did indeed help the team settle in on Friday against Montgomery.
“It’s huge to get the early lead and have that cushion because you’re not as pressured on the defensive side and it helps you relax at the plate, too,” Varga said. “It was definitely a benefit to set the tone in the first inning, hitting the ball right away and put them on their heels.”
Winning pitcher Jesse Cooper finished 3 for 4 at the plate, scoring three runs and driving in three while Christian Leech was 3 for 4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Leech had two doubles, Justin Vardian (2 for 3) had one double while Nemo Trexler hit a triple and drove in three runs and Jimmy Stenger had a triple and drove in two.
“We can hit the ball 1 through 9,” Leech said. “We are solid. We just have to put the ball in play and let the other team make the mistakes and that’s what we did. To get the early lead, it makes it so much easier for Jesse to pitch and that’s what he did.”