Timely hitting propels Karns City to District 9 crown
Karns City stayed in the District 9 baseball final by hitting the ball far. It won the game by hitting to just the right places.
The Gremlins scored three runs on four straight two-out singles in the bottom of the sixth to pull ahead as Karns City captured the District 9 Class AA championship with a 7-4 win over Moniteau at Pullman Park in Butler.
Karns City (19-1) advanced to the PIAA tournament, where it will play the WPIAL champ — either Quaker Valley or Beaver — in the first round June 3.
“It felt so good compared to last year, when we lost the District 9 final to Brookville,” junior Tyler Kepple said. “It's good that we were able to get back here the next year and get the win after that loss (last year).”
Kepple played a big role in the win by hitting a third-inning, inside-the-park home run and pitching two hitless innings of relief to record the win. He also singled in the Gremlins' sixth-inning rally, which came after Moniteau (7-9) tied the score, 4-4.
Nathan Weckerly and Kepple singled with two outs, and advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. Zach Moore hit a grounder toward second base that Moniteau shortstop Aaron Marterella fielded with a dive to his left. Marterella hopped to his feet and threw to first, but Moore beat the throw with a head-first dive.
Matt Yough added two runs with a groundball single that rolled into left field. Moore hustled home to score from second behind Kepple.
“We talked about how we didn't need a big hit, but we needed to string some hits together,” Karns City coach Randy Collins said. “That's exactly what we did in that sixth inning using our speed.”
Moniteau took a 3-1 lead after two innings, while Warriors starting pitcher Trent Young's only allowed one big hit in the early innings, an RBI triple by Moore.
That changed in the third, when Kepple hit a deep drive that bounced to the wall near the 425-foot sign in center field. The junior used his speed to circle the bases and score the home run.
“I just thought it was a fly ball to center field, but I kept watching the center fielder keep running straight back,” Kepple said. “It dropped in, and I started looking to coach (Collins) to give me the sign. I was probably about five steps from third base, and I saw him start waving and telling me to go for it.”
Karns City pulled ahead in the fourth after Nick Ganter led off with a triple that hit the top of the fence in left-center field. Gremlins' coaches appealed that the ball hit a light fixture out of play and bounced back onto the field.
Ganter had to stay at third after the 384-foot blast, but he scored on Scott Kiser's single. Kiser scored on a groundout by Wyatt Everetts, and Karns City took a 4-3 lead.
Young hit an RBI single for Moniteau to tie the game in the fifth, but that would be the final run allowed by Yough, who battled through five innings for Karns City before Kepple took the hill.
“Matt Yough did a phenomenal job,” Collins said. “He may not have thought it was his best performance today because he got hit around some, but the innings he threw were huge for us.”
“We like to work together to get the job done,” Kepple said. “(Yough) gave us five good innings, and then I came on and did my best to get us the win.”