Plocki's clutch hit sends Deer Lakes baseball to semifinals
When the “antlers” go up, there's only one thing the other team can do: fear the deer.
In lieu of rally caps, Deer Lakes baseball players put their hands to their heads and make antlers whenever a teammate notches an extra-base hit.
Greensburg Central Catholic was caught in the tree stand when first baseman Josh Plocki ripped a two-out, two-run triple to right in the sixth inning Wednesday to lead the fourth-seeded Lancers to a 4-3 victory in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals at Fox Chapel.
The win vaults the Lancers (17-3) into the semfinals for the first time since 1994. They will play top-seeded Quaker Valley (20-0) at 4 p.m. Tuesday back at Fox Chapel. Quaker Valley already has knocked Burrell and Freeport, also Section 3 teams, out of the playoffs.
Deer Lakes, which has three straight one-run victories, lost in the quarterfinals to Riverside the past two seasons but finally broke through to reach the final four.
“That was one of biggest hits in our program's history,” Deer Lakes coach Jon Pedrosky said of Plocki's three-bagger, which sliced past Greensburg C.C. right fielder Cole Reese. “Plocki has been right on the baseball the last eight games. He took an outside pitch and teed that one up.”
The Lancers took a 3-1 lead and added another run on a wild pitch before holding off a last-inning comeback from Greensburg Central (13-6), which left 12 runners on base.
The triple, which was the first of the season for Plocki, came on the first pitch of his at-bat.
“Their pitcher was throwing a lot of first-pitch fastballs,” Plocki said. “It was great to see the guys with the antlers up. We try to get hits in the right spots.”
Pitcher Todd Coleman worked through several jams to pick up the complete-game win. He allowed eight hits but struck out six, including back-to-back hitters in the sixth with runners at first and third.
“Coleman is an absolute competitor,” Pedrosky said. “He showed that today.”
The Centurions left the bases loaded in the second and fourth innings. Pedrosky intentionally walked leadoff hitter Garrett Brooks on both ocassions, and the Lancers worked out of trouble.
Greensburg Central nearly came all the way back from a three-run deficit. DH Matt Oleyar doubled to right with two outs to score two runs and cut the lead to 4-3.
“Our guys kept their composure and poise,” Pedrosky said. “I couldn't be more proud of what they're doing.”
An infield single by Reese in the second scored the Centurions' first run. Deer Lakes tied it in the fourth on a single by James Fiel.
Deer Lakes designated-hitter Ryan Perroz was grazed on the side of the face with a pitch in the top of the third but stayed in the game, applying ice in between at-bats.
“I can't imagine there is a team out there that works harder than us,” Pedrosky said. “My parents always told me it's the teams that work the hardest that have the best chance to win. It's cliché but it's true.”