CENTER VALLEY — Wyoming Area's remarkable postseason run continued Thursday at the expense of Elco's.
The Warriors, under .500 on the season not long ago, are two wins from a PIAA Class 4A baseball championship after eliminating the Raiders 6-4 in a state quarterfinal game at DeSales University's Weiland Park.
“They outplayed us,” said Elco coach Roger Hehnly, whose club ends the season 17-7, with a District Three championship. “Tip the cap to them.”
The Raiders had their ace, Dakota Smith, on the mound and well-rested enough, having thrown only 43 pitches in a first-round defeat of Science Leadership Academy.
Smith looked utterly dominant, throwing a live fastball and secondary pitches for strikes, as he sailed through the first inning against the formidable top of the Warriors' lineup.
Although Smith's stuff and velocity seemed to stay at that level, Hehnly admitted that, "Their smaller kids got into a couple of fastballs and barrelled them up.”
With two outs in the second, John Morgan and Jack Mathis, the Warriors' six- and seven-hole hitters, got back-to-back doubles.
That made it 1-0, and Wyoming Area got another run in the third. Smith had already thrown 10 more pitches by the end of that inning than he had Tuesday.
In their half of the third, the Raiders got a huge break and took huge advantage of it.
They loaded the bases on two walks and a Jeremy Eck single. With two outs, Reilly Peiffer sent a fly ball to center that looked as if it would end the inning. Except that the Wyoming Valley outfield couldn't locate it. It landed 10-12 feet from everybody, and Peiffer had a three-run triple.
Riley Blatt followed with a single to score Peiffer and give the Raiders a 4-2 lead.
Elco did not manage another baserunner against Hunter Lawall, Wyoming Area's No. 2 starter behind junior J.J. Hood, a UConn commit who pitched Tuesday and played first base Thursday.
The Warriors had a big answer in the fifth, scoring four times on doubles by Evan Melberger and Casey Noone and Mathis' two-run single.
Mathis — again, the seven-hole hitter — went 3-for-3 with three RBIs.
Wyoming Area overcame a couple of bouts with COVID-19 this season, which is why it played five or six fewer games than most state tournament teams. The school had never been to the state tournament, or even a district final, in baseball before this season.
It's also been a memorable late spring for the Raiders, who started rolling after finishing third in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League behind Manheim Central and Cocalico, both state tournament teams in Class 5A.
"We gave them the car at the beginning of the season,'' Hehnly said. "We gave them the keys midway through. Now all we've been doing is putting in the gas and driving.''