Peters Township head baseball coach Joe Maize sat down and skimmed through his scorebook following the regular season.
Maize wanted to find any trends that could help the Indians in their run through the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs. The 29-year coaching veteran discovered that in each of Peters Township’s six losses, the Indians allowed four or more runs in one inning.
If Peters Township was going to advance to the quarterfinals and defeat the Pine-Richland Friday, then Maize knew they would need to avoid a similar meltdown.
The Indians were unable to do so as Pine-Richland scored four runs in the second inning and Peters Township committed four errors to help the Rams hold on for a 5-4 victory at Washington & Jefferson’s Ross Memorial Park.
The Indians’ season ended with a 14-7 overall record, while the Rams (16-5) advance to the quarterfinals to face Mt. Lebanon (12-9) today.
“We’ve had solid pitching and defense for three-quarters of the season, but in the games we have struggled, that wasn’t the case,” Maize said. “Our gloves have to help our pitching and that didn’t happen today.”
It was Peters Township’s defense that faltered in the bottom of the second inning, when senior starting pitcher Max Augenstein badly needed its help. Augenstein struck out the leadoff batter before two singles and a walk loaded the bases.
Rams junior left fielder Sam Gessner, Pine-Richland’s No. 9 hitter, was scheduled to bat and before he stepped into the batter’s box, his teammates offered a word of advice: Augenstein had thrown eight straight first-pitch fastballs.
Gessner, who reached base in all three plate appearances, took the advice and hit a high, outside fastball to right-center field. Peters Township junior center fielder Frank Jezioro had trouble fielding the ball as Gessner recorded a three-run double and reached third on the error with only one out.
“My teammates are great,” Gessner said. “They told me (Augenstein) was throwing first-pitch fastballs, so I waited on it and got the hit. Hitting ninth allows me to see what the other pitcher throws and you pick up tendencies like that from teammates.”
While Gessner’s hit gave the Rams a 3-0 lead, it was the play he made just minutes later that Maize said he had not seen in 29 years of coaching. Senior Tyler Schmidt, a right-hander who uses a long delivery, relieved Augenstein, and with Indians third baseman Kyle Lewis playing off the bag, Pine-Richland coach Kurt Wolfe gave Gessner the signal to steal home.
Before Schmidt’s pitch reached the plate, Gessner scored the fourth run.
“(Gessner) has been huge for us all year,” Wolfe said. “He was a big part of four of our runs, he had two huge hits and has been nothing but consistent.”
The Indians drew to within two in the third when Jezioro hit a two-run triple, but the Rams added a run in the fourth to take a 5-2 lead. Schmidt scored on an error in the fifth inning to give Peters Township a shot at a seventh-inning comeback.
Indians senior second baseman Phil Pisarcik hit a leadoff double in the top of the seventh and scored when junior left fielder Phil Mary singled up the middle to draw Peters Township to within one run.
Pine-Richland senior Jamie Switalski, who threw a 130-pitch complete game with five strikeouts, recorded three straight outs to end the game and Peters Township’s season.
“That four-run inning was something we knew we had to avoid, but the kids never quit,” Maize said. “Some teams would put their tails between their legs after an inning like that, but these kids didn’t. I’m proud of them for getting to the playoffs and hopefully our younger kids learn from the mistakes we made.”