Deer Lakes pulls away from Section 3-AA pack
The debate about the best baseball team in WPIAL Section 3-AA dwindled considerably Thursday afternoon thanks to the matchup between Freeport and Deer Lakes.
Aside from a few miscues in the top of the seventh, Deer Lakes (9-2, 7-0) delivered a convincing performance at home as it topped Freeport, 9-3, to put distance between itself and the rest of the section. The Lancers, winners of eight straight, nearly enacted the mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth, but Freeport (6-2, 4-2), which entered Thursday with a six-game win streak, fought to reach the seventh.
“I thought it would be a low-scoring game, so I was really glad when we started busting it open,” said senior pitcher Adam Fredley, who earned the win and went 3 for 4 with two RBI. “It took some pressure off me on the mound.”
Through three innings, Freeport resembled the team ready to break out. The Yellowjackets singled in each inning, and they moved a runner into scoring position each time.
But Fredley, with help from his fielders, closed the door on each opportunity. During the first inning, when Freeport had its best early scoring opportunity — runners at second and third with one out — Fredley got a strikeout and a lineout to escape the jam.
Minutes after he worked his way out of trouble, Fredley displayed his clutch hitting ability. Pat McMurray's sacrifice bunt one at-bat earlier gave Deer Lakes two outs but moved Kevin Begley to second base. Fredley laced a single to left field to bring home Begley.
“I like those situations,” Fredley said. “I like having the pressure on me, and I like being able to rise to the occasion.”
For a short time, that run seemed critical. Freeport's offense sputtered in key situations, and Deer Lakes hardly fared better — particularly in the second when it squandered loaded bases as Yellowjackets pitcher Robbie Miller, catcher Matt Swartz and first baseman Noah Shannon turned a double play.
“It started to seem like the pitchers were settling in a little bit, and to get one or two runs might've been the difference,” Deer Lakes coach Jon Pedrosky said. “We were lucky enough to open it up a little bit with a couple big hits.”
A leadoff single by Fredley in the bottom of the fourth set Deer Lakes on its path toward a decisive victory. Zach Hudicek followed with a walk, and Jimmy Fiel's sacrifice bunt moved Fredley's courtesy runner, Chris Skinner, and Hudicek to third and second, respectively.
An errant throw to first base after a dropped third strike in Josh Plocki's at-bat allowed Skinner to score. Freeport then failed to get an out from Ryan Perroz's soft grounder toward first base; Hudicek beat the tag at home.
The series of self-inflicted wounds continued for Freeport, and Begley seized the moment with a two-run single to center field that gave Deer Lakes a 6-0 lead.
With three singles and four walks in the bottom of the fifth, Deer Lakes extended its lead to 9-0.
“I thought (the game) would be much closer like the way that it started,” Freeport coach Chris Graczyk said. “We had a bad inning there, and it kind of snowballed and got out of control a little bit.”
Fredley, whose fatigue that led to control trouble, finished one out short of a complete game.
“His pitch count was getting up a little bit, and we certainly didn't want to get him hurt over a game,” Pedrosky said. “The kid was just absolutely amazing. I wanted to leave him in, but the situation just didn't dictate it.”