SCHUYLKILL HAVEN – All season long, the Panther Valley baseball team has been plagued by streakiness and inconsistency.
Last night, it caught up to them, as the Panthers suffered a 12-10 season-ending loss to second-seeded Schuylkill Haven in the quarterfinals of the District 11 Class AA Tournament.
The win marked the third time this season that the Hurricanes (17-4) have defeated the Panthers (11-10).
"I never really felt like we reached our full potential this season," stated Panther Valley head coach John Cooper. "Offensively, we played pretty well today, but we just didn't have the pitching and defense to get the job done. We were never able to get all aspects of our game going at the same time, and that's pretty much been the story of our season."
The Panthers got on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning with two quick runs off Hurricanes pitcher Phil Dohner. Dohner, who has owned the Panthers in the regular season (23 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched with two wins), hit two of the first three batters he faced, and Greg Pecha made him pay by roping a two-run single to center. The Panthers then wasted a golden opportunity by stranding the bases loaded, after Dohner struck out Stephen Gulla with his 34th pitch of the frame.
However, Dohner wasn't the only pitcher with control issues. Schuylkill Haven wasted no time striking back as Colin McGee scored on a wild pitch and Doug Steffy put the Hurricanes ahead 3-2 with a two-run single to center.
Schuylkill Haven added RBI singles from Dohner and Evan Fink in the ensuing inning and an RBI double by Steffy chased Panther Valley's Casey Lawrence from the game after 1 innings pitched, in which he allowed eight earned runs off five hits and four walks.
"We wanted to score first and make them play catch-up, which we did," noted Cooper. "But to their credit, they came right back on us with three runs and that's been a big problem for us down the stretch – we're just having a hard time getting people out."
"If you told me that we'd come out here and score 10 runs against Haven (and Dohner) and lose the game, I would of said you're crazy," added Cooper.
The Panthers cut the deficit to 8-4 in the third inning with RBI singles from David Marouchoc and Gulla, but Schuylkill Haven scored runs in each of the next three frames to take a 12-5 lead into the seventh inning.
However, Panther Valley would not go away quietly. After Dohner walked the first two batters to lead off the seventh inning, Zach Stanko belted an RBI double. Following two more walks and fielder's choice groundout, Lawrence stepped to the plate and ripped a two-run double to deep center to cut the lead to 12-9. After a hit batter loaded the bases for the fourth time in the inning, the Panthers had the tying run at first and the winning run at the plate with only one out. Kyle McAvoy's fielder's choice groundout scored Ryan Poeldnurk to cut the lead to 12-10, but with runners at the corners, Shane Berger got Panthers cleanup hitter Greg Pecha to fly out to center to end it.
Dohner had three hits, three runs and three stolen bases for Schuylkill Haven, while Steffy added three hits and three RBI.
For Panther Valley, Lawrence had two hits, two runs and two RBI in the loss.
Panther Valley 202 100 5 - 10 8 1
Schuylkill Haven 351 120 x - 12 11 2
Lawrence, Pecha (2) and Marouchoc; Dohner, Fink (7), Berger (7) and McGee. W - Dohner. L - Lawrence. S - Berger. HR: Schuylkill Haven - B. Slotterback (4th, none on).