Pleasant Valley's Dan Hrbek may already have his college baseball career all lined up, but the senior wasn't about to let his high school one come to an end on Monday.
With Monday afternoon potentially being his last time in a Pleasant Valley uniform, Hrbek hurled six brilliant innings of one-hit ball and helped lead the Bears to a 5-1 victory over Bangor in the first round of the District 11 AAAA playoffs. The win allows Pleasant Valley to move on and play Mountain Valley Conference foe Pocono Mountain East in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
"Obviously this is a big win after coming off of two losses the last few weeks," said Hrbek. "You have to come out and play your hardest in districts. I think the guys came out, put the ball in play, made the plays and did all the little things right today.
"Knowing this could be my last game was a ton of motivation. You never want to lose your last game at home, especially as a senior. It was definitely motivation for me today."
The only hit Hrbek allowed came in the fourth in the form of a single to centerfield. Other than that, he surrendered just three walks while punching out nine. He helped out with the bat as well, as he finished the day 1-for-2 with two stolen bases and three runs scored.
"He was tremendous," said Pleasant Valley manager Charlie Inserra. "He has been doing this for us on both sides of the ball all year. When you are trying to get some good vibes going and are trying to get the ball rolling in your direction in the district tournament to have a game like this is just huge.
"We got a nice little lead early and put some pressure on (Bangor). When your pitcher is throwing that well and you get an early lead, we know from experience that it can seem insurmountable even if it is only 2-0. So he was huge for us and we really need it."
The hard-throwing right-hander pitched three perfect innings before running into trouble in the fourth. Following a long inning in which the Bears scored two runs on four hits, Hrbek came out and allowed the first three Bangor batters to reach base via two walks and a single.
Despite being caught between a rock and a hard place, the senior promptly worked his way out of the jam. Hrbek got the next three batters to go down on strikes, with the last two swinging, to end the inning and strand all three runners.
"After the long inning, to walk the leadoff batter is never a good thing," Hrbek said. "I got that in my head and I think it affected me, but to rally back with the bases loaded was big. I knew I had to throw strikes and let the defense work. Luckily we got out of it."
The Bears got their starter some early run support in the very first inning. With Jordan Caffrey on first, Hrbek hit a grounder to second. The ball slipped between the fielder's legs and trickled into right field. It was then that the right fielder tried to get Caffrey at third, but threw the ball out of play and allowed him to score. James Shank hit a sacrifice fly to plate Hrbek one batter later.
Caffrey (fielder's choice) and Ariel Mejia (double) each knocked in runs in the fourth to increase the lead. Hrbek scored the final run in the fifth when Bangor was forced to throw down to first following a swinging strike. Hrbek took off on the throw and got in safely.
Howie Stevens had two hits for Pleasant Valley which improved to 14-8 and will now play Pocono Mountain East for a fourth time this season. The Bears won both regular-season meetings (7-6 and 12-8) before losing to the Cardinals (6-3) in the MVC semifinals last week.
"We are looking forward to it," said Inserra. "We have a lot of respect for them. Our three games this year have been battles. The first two were really tough. We expect nothing else than just another dog fight.
"It is kind of rare that you get the match-up of two MVC teams in the second round. We are looking forward to it and I am sure they are too. It should be a lot of fun with a familiar foe"
Bangor 000 000 1 - 1 2 2
Pleasant Vy. 202 101 x - 5 7 0
Gurinko and Nigito; Hrbek, Stevens (7) and Shank. W - Hrbek, L - Gurinko. HR: B - Hydock (7th, none on).