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Simms strong, but Bulldogs fall to Minersville

MINERSVILLE - Quick baseball games in high school are a rarity.

But that’s exactly what occurred when Northern Lehigh and Minersville met in Wednesday’s District 11 Class 2A quarterfinal game.

The Bulldogs, who looked more like a 15-5 team than the 5-15 mark they brought into the contest, rode a strong pitching performance from Connor Simms, but their offense couldn’t figure out a way to score any runs against Lorrenzo Yourey and dropped a 2-0 decision.

The win sends the Battlin’ Miners (11-10) into the semifinal round, where they will face Schuylkill Haven on Sunday.

Simms was dominant early, shutting out Minersville through the first four innings. And in those four frames, the right-hander had pinpoint control and total command of his pitches.

How effective was the Bulldog hurler? Going into the fifth, he threw a total of just 38 pitches - including 30 for strikes.

“I can’t say enough about the way (Simms) threw,” said Northern Lehigh head coach Gerald Kresge. “He was in command in every inning, until we had that bump in the fifth.”

Simms gave up a pair of runs in the fifth, one earned and another unearned. Logan Rizzardi led off with a double and moved up a base on a wild pitch. Easton Schultz followed with a single to drive in the game’s first run, although Schultz was erased trying to take second on the play.

The Miners, however, were able to push across a second run on a hit batter, a sacrifice bunt by Matt Dube and an error.

“We really had to work our tails off to beat that team,” said Minersville skipper Shane Spotts. “Their pitcher did a heck of a job on the mound … he pitched and worked ahead on every batter. We had to battle to get the win.”

The Bulldogs, despite not scoring, had Yourey on the ropes several times - but failed to get a key hit.

“We’re an aggressive team,” said Kresge. “Their catcher did a great job, he threw out three runners.”

Nick Buskirk led off the game with a single, but was gunned down trying to steal before his younger brother Braydon Buskirk singled, before Yourey escaped without further damage.

The Bulldogs had a runner in scoring position in the second when Simms singled with one out and stole second, but was left stranded.

Brayden Buskirk reached base again in the third via a walk, but was also thrown out trying to steal.

Northern Lehigh looked like it would finally dent the scoreboard in the fourth when Coy Daubert and Parker Schaeffer both singled to put runners on first and third with no outs. Yourey bore down, though, and got a ground out and strikeout. A walk to pinch-hitter Conner Martinez loaded the bases, but Yourey fanned his second hitter in the inning to get out of the jam.

“That was a big lift for us, keeping them off the board,” said Spotts. “Hey, if they score there who knows what happens.”

What did eventually happen for Spotts and his team was their two-run winning rally in the fifth.

“(They scored on) one hit and one error, but that’s the best we played all year,” Kresge said. “I’m super proud of the way we played. We had guys in scoring position, but we just didn’t get that extra hit.

“No negatives, that’s for sure. We’ve come so far, I wish we had our seniors for another year.”

BY THE NUMBERS … Simms, who deserved a batter fate, ended up throwing 62 pitches - 48 for strikes - in his six innings of work. He allowed four hits, struck out two, walked two and hit two batters. Yourey was pulled after six innings. He gave up four hits - all singles to Schaffer, Daubert, Simms and Braydon Buskirk. Yourey tossed 98 pitches, striking out nine, walking two and hitting two batters. Nolan Plesnarski pitched a scoreless seventh to register a save.

DEFENSIVE GEMS … Northern Lehigh’s Landon Cougle made two great backhanded plays at the hot corner. Bulldog senior shortstop Nick Buskirk was solid, too. Simms was solid fielding his position on the bump. The Miners had some defensive gems, too. Catcher AJ Halford pegged out three runners trying to steal. Shortstop Garrett Sukeena and third baseman Cam Rodgers were each also strong in the field.

HE SAID IT … “We brought him up from junior varsity two weeks ago, and he’s done a really good job. That was our plan,” said Kresge about the play of third baseman Cougle.

No. Lehigh 000 000 0 - 0 4 1

Minersville 000 020 x - 2 4 0

Simms and B. Buskirk; Yourey, Plesnarski (7) and Halford. W - Yourey. L - Simms. S - Plesnarski.