Gill 'dashes' home to lift NL
bob ford/times news Northern Lehigh's Joe Seremula unwinds with a pitch against Minersville.
It was a decision Northern Lehigh coach Erv Prutzman didn't hesitate to make.
After five innings of scoreless baseball, the Bulldogs gave their head coach no other choice especially since they had already stranded four runners in scoring position.
During Tuesday's District 11 Class AAA baseball quarterfinal game with Minersville, Prutzman was forced to make a gusty move with one out in the sixth inning.
The moved paid off for Northern Lehigh as Matt Gill was called safe in a too-close-for-comfort play at home. While it brought disbelief from inside the Minersville dugout, it wound up giving Northern Lehigh the edge in a 2-1 nail-biter.
While Gill was the one to get the job done on the offensive, there wasn't any way Prutzman was going back on making the decision in a pinch, especially with his Bulldogs' season on the line.
"I would have been glad if he was out too because we were not hitting the ball," Prutzman said. "And when you get an opportunity, you have to try and score.
"Their kid (Minersville pitcher Jake Kopinetz) had us baffled. So, you have to score when you can. Gill is a heck of an athlete and a heck of a runner. I was sending him right when he left go of the ball and he was gone."
Already failing to capitalize on runners in scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings, the Bulldogs were finally able to break through in the sixth.
With Minersville holding onto a 1-0 lead entering the bottom of the sixth, Joe Seremula, Gill and Jake Kern were able to finally able to dial in on three separate pitches from Minersville's Kopinetz. The trio laced back-to-back-to-back singles in that inning. Prior to that, Kopinetz had held the Bulldogs only to a fourth-inning single by Kern.
When Seremula crossed home plate with the tying run on Kern's RBI-hit, it set the stage for the Bulldogs to pull off a play they'll remember for a lifetime.
With one out, Kopinetz was able to strike out pinch-hitter Kirk Bender. However, the ball got away from Miners' catcher Jeremy Sborz. Sborz tracked down the ball, looked to third, then gunned Bender out at first.
On the release, Gill made a mad dash for home plate. Minersville first baseman Dave King rifled the ball home, but Gill slid in safely just ahead of Sborz's tag.
"When he threw the ball down first base, I knew as soon as he let the ball go, I was going," Gill said. "I was just full steam ahead going into home. It was a close play.
"I would have been dead out if he (Sborz) had the glove any further up. But, he had his glove in the back of the plate, so I was able to squeeze my foot in."
In addition to chipping in offensively, Seremula kept his team well within reach of a victory from the mound. Seremula moved to 9-1 on the season after tossing a complete game two-hitter, in which he struck out five and walked one.
"What can you say about the kid? He has been throwing for us for three years," Prutzman said. "Why would you take the ball out of his hands? In the three playoff games, we have given up three runs and all three are unearned. We haven't given up an earned run in 21 innings of playoff baseball."
Minersville 001 000 0 - 1 2 1
No. Lehigh 000 002 x - 2 4 2
Kopinetz and Sborz; Seremula and Hoch. W - Seremula. L - Kopinetz.