SOUTH PYMATUNING TWP. – Forrest Gump’s best friend – Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue – specialized in shrimp. Sharpsville High sophomore slugger Andrew “Bubba” Frye has an appetite of another kind – he feasts on fastballs.
Frye’s walk-off, 7th-inning single staked Sharpsville to a 7-6 inter-region win over Hickory.
At Kevin S. Yarabinec Memorial Field Friday afternoon, visiting Hickory harvested a 3-run rally to take a 6-5 lead, erasing a 5-3 deficit. The Hornets’ highlight was clean-up hitter Joey Fazzone – who also feasted on a fastball and hit it approximately 380 feet to straightaway center field for a 2-run home run. That culminated Fazzone’s 3-for-4 plate performance.
But Bubba and the Blue Devils bounced back in the home half of the 7th stanza.
Kolten Eckles doubled to the right-center field gap, narrowly beating the throw to 2nd base. Cam Williams and Jackson Doyle out-ran infield rollers, and Williams scored the game-tying run on an errant throw to the plate.
That brought up Bubba.
“Oh, Bubba! When he stepped up, I said to myself, ‘He’s the best fastball hitter we have.’ He’s a special player, just turned sixteen-years-old, he’s an amazing athlete, and I’m glad he’s our’s,” summarized Sharpsville skipper Brian Smith.
“Once Jackson got on, there were no outs, two runners on, the pressure was gone,” related Frye, who finished 3-for-4. “(Hickory High senior) Connor Evans throws hard, he’s committed to go to college, so I was expecting fastball, saw it, and I hit it the best I could do.
“We know we’re a strong team, we knew we had this, and we were gonna battle to the end,” Frye responded when asked if there were any doubts in the Blue Devils’ dugout regarding the game-winning rally.
While there we no District 10 or PIAA championships on the line, the Shenango Valley showdown served as a postseason precursor for both squads in their respective enrollment classes. Class 2A Sharpsville improved to 15-0 this season, while Class 3A Hickory is now 11-4.
“The most important thing is we won a pressure game,” Smith insisted. “I mean, this is the first pressure game we’ve played. I think we’ve trailed twice – by one run each time – and this is the most pressure (the Blue Devils) have had. And win or lose this game I said to myself before (the game-winning rally), ‘How they manage the pressure was gonna be the biggest thing we take out of this, one way of the other.’ And they managed it perfectly.”
“To face a good squad like Sharpsville, it can’t help but get us better,” assessed Hickory Head Coach Bob States. “It was a good opportunity to play a non-region game, somebody we hadn’t seen, but to treat it almost like a playoff game. ... That’s a great Sharpsville team.”
“This game was huge for us, especially going into the playoffs in two weeks, this was the best game we could’ve played all year, especially against (the Hornets) – they’re a great team,” Sharpsville senior center fielder Jackson Doyle said. “It’s the first time all year we’ve had to fight back like that, and we obviously pulled through.”
Doyle drove Nick Osborne’s 1st pitch – Doyle said it was a slider “ ... the best pitch I’ve seen all year, so I had to take advantage of it” – over the left-field fence, slicing Sharpsville’s deficit to 2-1.
Hickory had assumed a 2-0 lead to commence the contest.
Connor Evans drew a walk from Sharpsville southpaw starter Brock Lenzi, stole 2nd, and scored on Fazzone’s screaming single to left-center. After Johnny Leedham singled, putting runners at the corners with 2 outs, Hickory executed a daring double-steal. Catcher Leedham’s courtesy runner, Luke Ference, broke from 1st base to intentionally draw a throw and get in a run-down. That effectively enabled Fazzone to steal home.
The tilt was tied at 3 after Sharpsville scored twice in the 3rd. Jared Leipheimer led off with a single and his courtesy-runner Jake Allen advanced on a wild pitch. Lenzi and James Thomas tattooed RBI-singles. The rally also was aided by a pair of errors.
In Sharpsville’s 6th stanza Doyle drew a 4-pitch leadoff walk from Hickory right-hander Nick Osborne. Frye’s seeing-eye single stopped by shortstop Clay Wiesen in the hole. Stephen Tarnoci’s fielder’s-choice grounder forced out Frye, but put runners at the corners. Jared Leipheimer’s liner just eluded the glove of Hickory 2nd-sacker Luca Bertolasio, staking Sharpsville to a 4-3 lead. Then Kaleb Gorichky’s slicing liner to right resulted in an RBI and insurance run at 5-3.
On lefty reliever Jack Leipheimer’s first 4 pitches of the 7th Wiesen whacked a double to right-center field, Fazzone homered, and Leedham legged out a triple to right center. Courtesy-runner Ference scored the go-ahead run on Josh Distler’s sac-fly RBI to center.
“I was real proud of the way they battled back,” States said of his Hornets. “I think that shows a lot of character, and especially who it was – those are our big, clutch guys, and for them to step up I felt was really important. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t hold on.
“It wasn’t just one thing that lost this game; it was a series of little things that added up. And when you’re playin’ a good team like Sharpsville, you can’t do that or else you’ll lose obviously,” States reasoned.
Right-hander Osborne worked 5 2/3 innings (100 pitches, 61 for strikes) before he was relieved by righty Evans. Osborne scattered 6 hits, allowed 5 runs, whiffed 6, walked 3 and hit a batter
“I feel awful for him ‘cause I think he pitched well enough to get the ‘W’ (Fri)day,” States lamented.
“It was a great high school baseball game,” Smith observed, admitting, “but it was, by far, our worst game of the year fundamentally – we made a lot of mistakes. But it’s hard ‘cause we haven’t been in a lot of pressure situations this year. And when you haven’t played in one, it’s hard to know how to react, you know? We made some base-running mistakes.
“But this team never quits. It’s deep, it’s talented, they love each other, and they were never going to give up,” Smith summarized.
Amid Sharpsville’s celebration, the ebullient Bubba got in the last word: “It feels amazing! Great team, great players, great coaches!”
Notes: As a 6-foot-5 leadoff hitter Evans ended by drawing 3 walks, drilling a double and scoring once, and Leedham lent 3 hits. Fazzone drove in 3 of Hickory’s runs and Josh Distler drove in 2 more, including a 3rd-inning RBI-single. ... Ference pilfered a pair of bases, and Osborne, who drew 2 walks, added another steal. ... Lenzi (3 innings, 77 pitches, 41 for strikes), yielded 3 runs on 5 hits and 5 walks. He whiffed 3. Reliever Leipeimer retired 9 of the first 10 batters he faced. Fazzone fly out to the center field fence to end the 4th frame with the go-ahead run on. Of Leipheimer’s 47 pitches, 32 were strikes. ... Sharpsville’s first 4 hitters – Jared Leipheimer, Gorichky, Lenzi and Thomas – each drove in a run. Frye finished with 2 RBI. Both Jared Leipheimer and Doyle reached base in 3 of their 4 at-bats. ... Doyle said he will matriculate at Westminster College to continue his education and play basketball, so the current season will be his last on a baseball diamond. If it would end with a PIAA championship, Doyle admitted, “It would be a great way to end. The state championship game would be (played) after we graduate, so it would be a great way to end it.”
• Grove City 7, Sharon 4 – At Forese Field in Grove City, the Eagles jumped out to a 5-0 lead after 3 innings en route to the Region 2 win.
Mason Jones and Dylan McElhinney combined to pitch a 4-hitter for GC. Jones struck out 10, walked 2, and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits in 5 2/3 innings. McElhinney had 2 strikeouts, issued 1 walk, and gave up the other run on 1 hit.
Sully Brown and Cole Voytik pitched for the Tigers. Brown had 3 strikeouts, no walks, and gave up 6 runs on 10 hits while Voytik whiffed 1, issued no walks, and allowed the other run on no hits.
Jones helped his cause at the plate with a triple, 2 singles and 2 RBI, Landon Haggart doubled, singled, and drove in a run, Rowan Perample had 2 RBI, Hayden McCreadie singled twice and drove in a run, Isaac Criss tripled, and Luke Tubbs doubled.
For Sharon, Brown hit an RBI single, Mark Cattron singled and drove in a pair of runs, and Dante Currie doubled.
• Wilmington 9, Jamestown 4 – At New Wilmington, the Hounds (13-1, 14-2) scored 3 runs in the 1st inning and 4 in the 2nd en route to the Region 1 win over the Muskies (0-13, 0-13).
Garrett Heller (3 innings), Rocky Serafino (3), and Dylan Batley combined to toss a 5-hitter for the Hounds. They had 13 strikeouts and 4 walks.
Offensively for Wilmington, Shane Book blasted a 3-run homer, Heller doubled, singled, and drove in 3 runs, Dom Serafino doubled, singled, and had an RBI, and Isaac Schleich added an RBI single.
• Lakeview 13, West Middlesex 7 – At Stoneboro, Chase Hostetler, Kendall Crocker, and Ted Shillito hit homers in the Region 1 win over the Big Reds (7-7, 7-8).
Hostetler had 3 hits and 4 RBI, Crocker smacked a solo home run, and Shillito hit a 2-run dinger. Also for the Sailors (7-6, 8-6), Lane Barber had 4 hits and 3 RBI, Kyle Uber collected 3 singles, Anthony Grim ripped an RBI single, and Mason Bevan doubled.
Shillito (5 innings) and Hostetler pitched for Lakeview. They had 1 strikeout, issued 1 walk, and gave up 10 hits.
Gio Rococi, Devin Gruver, Blaise Fox, and Logan Shrawder split time on the mound for WM. They combined on 6 strikeouts, walked 9 batters, and gave up 14 hits.
At the dish for the Big Reds, Eric Nehlen hit a 3-run homer, Garrett Donaldson and Gruver each had 2 hits and an RBI, Gio Rococi had a pair of singles, and Derrik Zappa contributed an RBI single.
• Hickory 20, Slippery Rock 5 (5 inn.) –
At Slippery Rock, the visiting Hornets held a 8-4 edge entering the 5th frame, then erupted for a dozen runs to short-circuit the affair.
Ella Holland (2 hits, 5 RBI, 2 stolen bases), winning pitcher Hallie Miller (3 hits, 3 RBI, 2 runs scored), Carlie Miller (2 hit, 3 runs, 2 RBI), Kaitlyn Gilliland, Kaelyn Fustos (2 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBI), and Malaiah Burns (3 hits, 2 runs, 3 RBI) led Hickory, which banged out 13 hits. Carlie Miller doubled and tripled and Hallie Miller doubled.
Hallie Miller (4 2/3 innings, 61 pitches, 40 for strikes) allowed 7 hits, 5 earned runs, and had 2 strikeouts and 2 walks.
Sam Meredith (2 hits, including a double, 3 runs scored, RBI), Ciana D’Antoni (2 doubles, 2 stolen bases), and C.Kunselman (1 hit, 1 run, 1 stolen base) fueled the Lady Rockets’ offense. Paige Grescott pitched for SR.
District 10 Class 2A Team Championships
Fairview swept Greenville, 5-0, in the semifinals Friday at Westwood Racquet Club in Erie. Cathedral Prep swept Warren, 5-0, in the other semifinal. Fairview went on to win the D-10 team title with a 4-1 win over Cathedral Prep.
• Fairview 5, Greenville 0 – Singles: Grayson Millette def. Anthony Gentile, 6-0, 6-0; Glenn Louis def. Cayde Davidson, 6-3, 6-3, Nate Kisiel def. Dawson Gehly, 6-0, 6-0. Doubles: Jacob Mehler-Aravind Turaga def. Bobby Barr-Finn Butcher, 6-0, 6-0; Aidan Piazza-Graham Louis def. Isaac Hightree-Keaton Wauberg, 6-0, 6-0.