It seems as if Stroudsburg and Pleasant Valley really enjoy playing extra-inning baseball games this year.
Whereas the Mounties and the Bears needed eight innings to decide a victor during their first meeting in April, the two teams once again needed extra frames in their Mountain Valley Conference finale on Friday. A costly error would be Pleasant Valley's undoing, as the Bears fell 4-3 in nine innings.
"As usual it was a very hard fought game," said Pleasant Valley manager Charlie Inserra. "I think we have two pretty even teams here and both games have been decided by one run. We have come up short both times, but you have to give credit where credit is due."
After Pleasant Valley starter Dylan Pasnak was pulled with two on and one out in the ninth, Stroudsburg's Bruce Breithaupt laid down a sacrifice bunt in hopes of moving the runners over. Reliever Howie Stevens got off the mound and threw the ball to second baseman Austin Yoffredo at first, however Yoffredo couldn't handle the throw and allowed Gabe Solano to score from second. The run would turn out to be the game-winner for the Mounties (17-3, 11-1).
"This one hurts," admitted Inserra. "You battle all game and you hate to see it end that way, but the bottom line is that you have to make plays. You have to make the routine plays when the game is on the line. At the same time there were probably some opportunities earlier in the game that we missed offensively.
"I won't say I am happy just to have hung with them. When you play that kind of game you can only come out on top. Our season is far from over though, so that is a good thing."
Both Pasnak and Stroudsburg starter Joey DePerno allowed runs to score in the first inning. Pasnak surrendered a two-run double to PJ VanOrman after giving up consecutive singles. The Bears got one back though when James Shank hit a sacwhen James Shank hit a sacrifice fly to plate Stevens.
The two settled in after that. Pasnak did not give up another hit until the fifth inning, while DePerno fanned six over the next three innings to keep the score where it was. Although his command was off at times (six walks), DePerno ended up with nine strikeouts while allowing just five hits.
Pleasant Valley tied things up in the fifth thanks to another sac-fly from Shank (2-for-3). Unfortunately for the locals, it was short-lived as Stroudsburg's Mike Nikorak sent a Pasnak-offering into the bus compound beyond the left field fence an inning later.
Still, The Bears didn't go quietly and mounted a comeback in the seventh. Stevens walked to lead off the inning and stole second a batter later. All-MVC shortstop Dan Hrbek then came up and delivered the game-tying single to centerfield. It was the fourth consecutive time Hrbek (2-fo-3, 2 BB) had reached base safely. The Bears loaded the bases with two outs, but Ariel Mejia went down looking to end the threat.
Things were rather routine for the next inning until Stroudsburg singled and walked with one out in the ninth. It was then that Pasnak was removed from the game and the Bears couldn't close out the inning.
Pasnak received the loss despite pitching well. He allowed three earned runs on seven hits while striking out four and walking two.
"Dylan was great," said Inserra. "The first inning he was battling some issues with the mound, but eventually you get to a point where you just have to pitch. I think after that first inning he was fantastic."
Hrbek turned on one to lead off the ninth and hit a rope down the right field line, but Nikorak made a great diving catch to nix any threat. The next two Bears would go down in order to end the game.
The loss guarantees Pleasant Valley (13-6, 9-3) the No. 2 seed in the MVC playoffs and sets up a semi-final match-up with Pocono Mountain East next week.
"We will be home on Tuesday against another familiar opponent," Inserra said. "We have had some battles against them too. We would have liked to win today and made (Saturday's game with Whitehall) interesting with district seedings, but now we know where we stand and we will take our chances next week."
Stroudsburg 200 001 001 - 4 7 0
Pleasant Vy. 100 010 100 - 3 5 1
DePerno, Stokes (7) and VanOrman; Pasnak, Stevens (9) and Shank. W - Stokes, L - Pasnak. HR: S - Nikorak (6th, none on).