Mariotti leads Freeport to first playoff win in 15 years
Even with his command not quite at 100 percent, Luke Mariotti turned in a commanding playoff pitching performance.
The senior pitcher overcame six walks allowed by striking out seven and yielding only four hits to lead Freeport to its first playoff win in 15 years, 9-4, over Brownsville in the WPIAL Class AA first round at Mt. Pleasant.
Ninth-seeded Freeport (12-3) advances to face undefeated No. 1 Quaker Valley, a 6-3 first-round winner over Burrell, in the quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined.
Robbie Miller was 4 for 4 with three RBI for Freeport, which pulled out to an 8-0 lead before Brownsville (13-5) scored all four of its runs in the bottom of the sixth. Prior to that, Mariotti held the Falcons to one hit through the first five innings.
“The mound was a little tricky, but that's no excuse (for the walks). I felt good the entire game and got a few calls here and there that helped,” Mariotti said. “I was throwing my game.”
Mariotti's game revolved around excellent use of his off-speed pitches — he consistently went to his curveball early in counts — and, more often than not, threw them for strikes. Even after allowing Brownsville's runs in the sixth, Mariotti came out strong in the seventh and ended the game with a clean inning.
“I was really disappointed with our effort,” Brownsville coach Skooter Roebuck said. “(Mariotti) threw a lot of curveballs to us, and we have to make an adjustment. At one point, he was starting everybody off with a curve, and we were just watching them like we were surprised.”
“That's how we planned it. It's pretty much how I've always worked because I don't have a great fastball,” Mariotti said. “My off-speed pitches are really what I go to.”
The Yellowjackets scored in the first inning when Dustin Koedel led off with a double, stole third and scored on an error, but it was a five-run second inning that gave Freeport one foot in the quarterfinals.
Ryley Cowan laid down a sacrifice bunt with one out, but a throwing error by Brownsville pitcher Tyler Spohn allowed Cowan to reach first safely. Noah Shannon, back in the Freeport lineup after missing more than two weeks with a hand injury, followed that with a two-run single for a 3-0 lead.
Two batters later, Miller dropped a two-run triple just inside the right-field line, and he scored on a groundout by Levi Negley for a 6-0 lead.
An error helped Brownsville load the bases in the sixth, and a three-run double by Cory Lent cut the lead to 8-4. Lent would be the final Falcon to reach base in the game as Mariotti responded to the only real adversity he faced with four straight outs.
“(Giving up runs) is nothing unusual for us,” Freeport coach Chris Graczyk said. “Innings like that in the playoffs can cost you, but we were lucky that it didn't today. (Mariotti) worked his way out of a jam the way they've done all year.”
“It's nice to be a part of the class that gets a playoff win,” Mariotti said. “We've worked hard for it, and now we're going to keep going deeper into the playoffs.”