Moon advances to PIAA quarterfinals
Moon doesn't care that it never looked the part of a champion Tuesday in advancing to the PIAA Class AAA baseball quarterfinals with a 13-5 victory against Perry.
It didn't in the first round in 2001, the year it beat Central Dauphin for the state title. Ditto for 2002, when it defeated Bethlehem Liberty for its second consecutive championship.
So a third first-round struggle in five years was taken as a positive omen by second-year coach Don Santeufemio.
"We have always barely survived this game," Santeufemio said. "This is always tough. If you don't keep your head in it coming off the WPIAL playoffs, you're going to lose."
Santeufemio proved his point with Pine-Richland, whose seventh-inning rally beat Moon (16-8) in the WPIAL Class AAA final last week. The Rams lost in the PIAA first round to Punxsutawney on Monday.
It took Moon's own come-from-behind effort to beat upset-minded Perry (10-10).
The Tigers, trying for their third PIAA title in five years, trailed the City League runner-up after four innings, 5-3. Moon starter Ben Sorosky had been battered for five runs in 3 1/3 innings and finally left after allowing four of the first five runners to reach in the fourth inning.
Perry's left-handed batters, especially No. 3 and 4 hitters Sam Vogt and Brad Lotis, took advantage of their matchup against the right-handed Sorosky. The pair had two hits and an RBI in four at-bats.
Enter southpaw Mike Burgunder, who turned the hitting advantage into a pitching one. Burgunder worked out of Sorosky's fourth-inning jam by walking Vogt before getting Lotis to hit into an inning-ending double play, killing Perry's last rally.
The Commodores never scored again and recorded nine outs in 10 batters over the final three innings. Burgunder set down Perry in order in the fifth, allowed one hit in the sixth, then got a strikeout-throw-out play to end the game.
Burgunder cooled Perry's left-handers, but Moon's power finally showed. Moon scored 10 runs in two innings after tying the game on two hitters.
Nick Peterson singled to start the fifth inning before Moon's Casey Williams hit his second home run in as many games to tie the score, 5-5. Williams pulled Perry pitcher Mike Schacht's full-count curveball to left-centerfield.
"The previous at-bats he threw me two curves in a row and I struck out," Williams said. "That next time he left a curveball up and I drove it."
"When Casey hits the ball, there's no doubt about it," Santeufemio said. "He carries us."
Moon added two more runs in the fifth, then scored six in the sixth against relief pitchers J.T. Wisnick and Lotis to seal the win.
The Tigers brought 11 batters to the plate. Brian Walsh and Sean Holliday, who had three hits in the game, doubled as the first six hitters reached base.
Perry coach Jan Rihs then brought in Lotis. Wisnick did not record an out, allowing four runs, all earned, on four hits and a walk.
"When we fall apart, we fall apart bad," Rihs said of a Perry program that reached the City league finals for the first time in the league's 84 years this season. "Moon can go three or four pitchers deep. We have two. But it's little things. We get the middle of a bad inning and can't seem to get out of it."
Still, the season proved promising for Perry after it advanced to the PIAA tournament for the first time because Allderdice, the City League tournament winner, was bumped to Class AAAA.
"We never see any of that competition," Williams said of the City League. "You have to come in expecting them to be good if they made it this far. They were."
Moon plays Peters Township on Thursday. Moon beat Peters Township, 8-6, in the third round of the WPIAL playoffs. The game took two days to complete because of rain.