MOOSIC – Ken Kashatus had the pitcher he wanted on the mound. He got the pitch location he wanted and even the groundball that headed in the direction he expected.
Kashatus and his Dallas Mountaineers may never know for sure where it went wrong.
Did the bouncing ball hit the crease where grass meets dirt or something else in the PNC Field infield? Was it simply a crazy sideways spin of the ball, creating one random, unpredictable bounce?
Regardless of the offending action, it took a bad-hop single with two out in the seventh and final inning to break a scoreless deadlock and bring an end to the Dallas reign as District 2 and state Class 4A baseball champion in a 1-0 Valley View district championship game victory Wednesday night before one of the largest high school crowds ever at PNC Field.
Following an intentional walk to leadoff hitter Dixon Black to put runners on first and second with two out, Dallas starter Nick Kocher hit the 100-pitch mark while working to Alex Savkov, making it the last batter he would face before closer Josh Lydon took over.
Savkov’s groundball to the right side seemed to be headed to Dallas second baseman Freddie Lombardo, who moved to his left, toward first base. Suddenly, the ball changed direction, moving farther to Lombardo’s left, out of his reach and into right field.
“We had the guy hitting to second base the last two times and it seems like it skipped to the left,” Kashatus said. “It was like our guy was tracking it. He crossed over. He was there. Then, when we saw him extend, we could see that the ball had a sidespin and went sideways.”
With Kocher and Mason Black locked up in a pitchers’ duel, Lydon ready to go as he has so often in so many close games the last two years and both defenses contributing outstanding plays, something had to give to get one of the teams on the scoreboard.
Kashatus called Mason Black “the best pitcher we’ve seen since 2014,” and said Dallas caught a break when it scored early before Black came on in relief in last year’s district championship game.
The rematch was much different than the 2017 final in which Dallas let a 7-0 lead get away before winning, 8-7.
Neither offense produced an extra-base hit, at least 12 of the 14 half-innings included a strikeout and the defenses came up with a series of inning-ending plays.
Mason Black threw a four-hitter with a walk and eight strikeouts.
“We had to contend with him on the hill throwing seven,” Kashatus said.
Valley View turned a double play to end the second inning. Dallas got a runner to third with one out and the top of the order up in the third, but a foulout and strikeout ended the best threat.
The Mountaineers got only one runner to scoring position the rest of the way and left fielder Zack Kovalchick’s diving catch while moving in and to his left ended the sixth inning.
Kocher gave up six hits with seven strikeouts and three walks, including the one that was intentional, in 6 2/3 innings. Will McCrum was outstanding at shortstop, including the plays that ended the last three innings, two of them with runners on second and third.
As well as Valley View was playing, the Cougars needed a little extra boost to hand Dallas just its second loss in league or playoff action in the last 29 games since April 28, 2017.
“Toughest group of kids I’ve ever coached at Dallas,” Kashatus said. “To win 27 out of 29 since last April, we went through the conference with the bulls-eye on our back. We’re getting everyone’s best shot and we rose to the occasion most games.”
Dallas had consistently shown it could win this type of game, giving up just eight runs in the last 11 games while the offense struggled at times.
“These kids were just mentally tough, emotionally tough,” Kashatus said. “The guts of burglars.”
McCrum, Kocher, Lombardo and Matt Mathers, who led off the bottom of the seventh with his, had the hits for the WVC Division 2 champion Mountaineers.
Nick Kocher struck out 10 and allowed one hit in 5 1/3 innings May 24 when top-seeded and defending champion Dallas won on its home field in the District 2 Class 4A semifinals.
Kocher got the offense started with an RBI single in the bottom of the first inning and finished 2-for-3.
The Mountaineers did all their scoring in the first two innings, but finished the game with just five hits.
Mike Luksic had an RBI single in the second inning.
Evan Sackman had a leadoff single in the third inning for Tunkhannock, which did not get a runner past second base.
Alex Kapral and Josh Lydon finished off the combined one-hitter.
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