Manheim Central vs. Abington Heights- PIAA 5A baseball quartrefinal

Manheim Central's Cam Eberly (1) is greeted by teammate Riley McGallicher (9) after scoring against Abington Heights during 5th inning action of a PIAA 5A baseball quarterfinal game at DeSales University's Weiland Park Thursday June 10, 2021.

CENTER VALLEY — Manheim Central pitcher Connor Rohrer kept pounding the strike zone with electric stuff, and kept waiting for the Barons’ offense to break through.

When the breakthrough came, it came big, and propelled Central to within two wins of a state baseball championship.

The Barons scored four runs each in the fifth and seventh innings to cruise past District Two champion Abington Heights 8-1 in a Class 5A state tournament quarterfinal game.

It means Central (22-2) gets a heavyweight semifinal matchup with Red Land (23-4), which beat Archbishop Wood 5-0 in its quarterfinal Thursday behind a 10-strikeout no-hitter by Kaden Peifer.

Peifer couldn’t have been much better than Rohrer, who, like his team, has bounced all the way back from a 13-3 loss to Muhlenberg in the second round of the District Three tournament.

“It’s a mental thing,’’ Rohrer said. “You’ve just got to forget about the past. You have to keep moving forward.’’

It isn’t as easy as he’s making it sound.

“It’s tough to keep going to practice when it’s been this long a season, but they look forward to it,’’ coach Jason Thompson said.

“They’ve been awesome. They continue to work and work and work.’’

Rohrer established his fastball and curveball early, mixed in a changeup he’s been working on, and kept moving forward to a 16-strikeout two-hitter.

“We’ve been working on that changeup all year,’’ Thompson said. “So we can add that to his arsenal now going forward.’’

Still, Abington Heights (14-9) led 1-0 until the fifth. They scored on the first on a hit-by-pitch (that looked like it was a borderline strike), a single and a passed ball.

The Comets also also getting good stuff from starting pitcher Cole Vida, although Thompson said that, “the first nine outs he had were easy; we did not do a very good job at all.’’

You could see things starting to turn when Central’s Colton Book sent a drive to the warning track in centerfield in the fourth, followed by a line double by Cam Eberly.

Still, no runs.

But in the fifth, Central got two runners on, on a hit-by-pitch and an error, and Abington Heights coach Bill Zalewski pulled Vida, who had thrown 79 pitches.

An out later, Book stroked a two-run single. Then Eberly walked, and Brady Harbach delivered a two-run double.

Asked if he was surprised by the pitching change, Thompson admitted, “One hundred percent. I was surprised they pitched to Book, too. I wouldn’t have.’’

Rohrer had all the help he needed, although more would be coming. The Barons scored four more in the seventh, as the Comets came unglued a bit and rummaged through three pitchers, for a total of six in the game.

A two-run double by nine-hole hitter Ky Watson about ended the suspense.

Except that Rohrer was at 99 pitches. The limit is 105, unless a pitcher hits that number during an at-bat, in which case he may complete the at-bat.

Rohrer got three outs and stayed under the limit.

A well-rested Book, the ace bound for Division I Stony Brook, will get the ball Monday.

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