SWIFTWATER – When it comes to one-game tournaments, all a team has to do is get into the dance in order to have a shot at winning the whole thing.
And while the Pleasant Valley baseball team only had a 7-5 record in the Mountain Valley Conference this year, and was lucky enough to gain a free berth into the MVC tournament and dodge a play-in game thanks to a lucky draw, the Bears showed how anything can happen on any given day.
The fourth-seeded Pleasant Valley Bears received some timely hitting, along with a great performance on the mound from starter Dan Hrbek, en route to upsetting top-seeded Pocono Mountain East 9-1 in the MVC semifinals on Thursday.
Pleasant Valley delivered the first big blow in its opening at-bats by plating four runs in the top of the first. The Bears' first four batters all reached base and eventually came around to score. For Pleasant Valley manager Charlie Inserra, it was just what the doctor had ordered.
"We have struggled offensively at times this year," said Inserra. "I knew if we could get a lead for Hrbek that he would feel a little more relaxed and a little more confident in himself.
"And that's really what we needed. That (first inning) took a lot of the pressure off of us that we had felt from not scoring as much. A four-spot in the first inning, as the visiting team, you can't ask for much more than that."
Adrian Concepcion led the game off with a single and was followed by consecutive walks by Rob Getz and Hrbek. John Guadagna then delivered with a two-run double down the right field line to get the scoring started. Tom Agosta followed immediately with a two-run single to make it 4-0 just five batters into the game. The Bears would add another run an inning later when Hrbek drove in Troy Van Houten on a fielder's choice.
The early runs took pressure off Hrbek, who began by throwing heater after heater past the Cardinals' lineup. Hrbek would throw five-and-a-third innings of shutout ball before being lifted in the sixth. The right-hander struck out seven while walking two.
The biggest trouble Hrbek would get into was in the fifth. After getting the first two batters looking, the next three hitters reached via an error, a single and a walk. Hrbek saw his way through it though, as he got East's Dave Garcia to pop out to short.
"I just tried to work fast and keep the game going," said Hrbek, who allowed just three hits on the day. "I wanted to throw strikes and let them hit it. I wanted to challenge them.
"It was big to get on top in the first inning. Whenever you get runs early it really helps you pitching-wise. It calms you down and you don't really feel any pressure."
Pleasant Valley would tack on four more runs in the sixth thanks to a two-RBI single from Getz and a two-RBI triple from Hrbek.
Every Bears' hitter except for one had at least one hit in the game. Concepcion (two singles) and Van Houten (three singles) had two or more hits.
Pleasant Valley advances to play defending-champ Stroudsburg on Saturday at 1 p.m. in a rematch of the MVC championship from last year. The Mounties took both meetings this year, including a 7-5 win last Thursday.
"There are really no secrets," said Inserra. "Stroudsburg is a tough team with tough kids. They are extremely well coached.
"We have seen everything they have. They have seen everything we have. The team that makes the least amount of mistakes will win. I know it sounds like the simplest phrase in the world, but we made some mistakes in the previous meetings and they made us pay. I am hoping we can eliminate the mistakes and play a high-energy game. I am sure it will be fun."
Pleasant Vy. 410 004 0 – 9 11 4
PM East 000 001 0 – 1 6 2
Hrbek, Pasnak (6) and Agosta; Sheranko, Sensale (2) and Brandes. W – Hrbek. L – Sheranko.