By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
INDIANA — Only in baseball can a single inning spoil an otherwise splendid season.
Sharpsville High’s second straight season in the PIAA Class AA playoffs ended in a quarterfinal-round setback, as the Blue Devils were dealt a 5-2 defeat by Philipsburg-Osceola Thursday afternoon at White Twp. Park.
“That’s a very good team, but I think we’re a very good team, too. We just got jumped on a little bit in that third inning,” assessed 17th-season Sharpsville skipper Kirk Scurpa. “It’s just a tough way to lose.
“It’s a really great team I have over there, a great bunch of kids. It’s going to be a hard pill to swallow, that third inning. ... It’s a well-coached team, two respectable programs, but they just had a better third inning than us.”
As they did throughout the course of the campaign the Blue Devils burst out to an early edge, only to have Philipsburg-Osceola answer immediately. That third inning aside, the game was reduced to a pitchers’ duel between Mounties’ moundsman Ryan Marcinko and Sharpsville junior Jarryd Summers.
Josh Fyffe’s 2-run third-inning single to left field scored pinch-runner Josh Rodondi and leadoff hitter Kyle Rupp, staking Sharpsville to a 2-0 lead. Rodondi was running for Torin Karsonovich, who walked, and Rupp reached on a fielder’s choice grounder.
However District 6 champion P-O answered with a 5-run outburst in the home half of the inning, highlighted by DH Ben Maurer’s 2-run double and Marcinko’s subsequent bases-loaded two-bagger to the left-center field gap as the Mounties batted around. Summers, who threw 31 pitches in allowing just 2 hits in the first two innings, labored through a 24-pitch third during which he issued a pair of walks — one intentional — and hit a batter.
P-O leadoff hitter A.J. Czap’s 1-out comebacker caromed off Summers’ shin, then Matt McCamley drew a walk. For the second time in 3 innings Scurpa instructed Summers to intentionally walk lefthanded-hitting catcher Matt Adams, a Slippery Rock University recruit. McCamley’s double knotted the count at 2.
Matt Curtis was hit by a pitch, but Summers — with the Blue Devils’ infield playing halfway — enticed J.D. Mason into grounding to Sharpsville shortstop Fyffe, whose throw to catcher Ryan Morris forced out Maurer at the plate, leaving the bases loaded with 2 outs. Marcinko then mashed what proved to be the game-winning hit, scoring pinch-runner Jeremy Beals, Curtis and Mason, before Summers popped out Jordan Luzier.
Sharpsville staged its last scoring bid in the fifth frame. Matt Davies and Rupp ripped 2-out singles, setting the stage for Fyffe. But Marcinko (5-3) managed to escape the 2-on, 2-out situation — despite falling behind 2-0 in the count — throwing three consecutive breaking pitches for strikes, the last of which Fyffe popped to P-O second-sacker Derick Weitoish.
“My feeling was, we had Curtis ready to go (in relief), so we weren’t going to throw (Fyffe) anything to hit,” related P-O head coach Doug Sankey. “If we walked (Fyffe), fine, I was going to bring in Matt (Curtis) with the bases loaded to pitch to the next kid (Summers). So our thinking there was, ‘This is (Marcinko’s) last guy. He was either going to get (Fyffe) with his best stuff, or we were going to bring in Matt.’ ”
When asked about Marcinko’s mettle and his pitch selection, Sankey said with a laugh, “(Marcinko) didn’t have any choice ’cause I was over there (in the dugout) calling them.”
The slender Summers (8-2) — who was pitching on 3 days’ rest after throwing 5 frames to gain credit for Monday’s 2-1 opening-round win over Steel Valley — gutted out 6 stanzas, permitted just a handful of hits and ended with 8 strikeouts and 3 walks.
“He was really pumped with adrenaline in that third inning,” Scurpa said of Summers. “ ... His adrenaline was getting the best of him, he was coming off the mound a little harder than what we like to see kids come off the mound. So we went out there and tried to keep him back, tried to keep him relaxed, but it didn’t work. They got on his fastball, and we knew they were a fastball-hitting team But he did a great job, just had a bad inning.”
Righty Marcinko was equally effective in his 5 frames, scattering a handful of hits and the pair of earned runs, striking out 2 and walking 2. He relinquished the Mounties’ mound to Curtis, who collected the save by tossing 24 pitches — 17 for strikes — and set down six of the seven hitters he faced, five on strikes for Philipsburg-Osceola (18-6).
Sharpsville (16-6) has dominated Mercer County Class A and AA for the last decade and won a handful of District 10 titles, including 3 of the last 4 years. But the move to AA has been difficult in its first two years, Scurpa said.
“We miss single-A. It’s tough being up here in AA ’cause we run into teams like that (and last year, eliminated by eventual PIAA titlist Riverside). That’s just the hand that’s dealt to you. But we have nothing to hang our heads about. We have a bunch of classy kids and I know they’re going to go on and succeed. We have a lot of kids who’re going to go on and play at the next level. It was a great season,” Scurpa summarized.
Notes: Scurpa said adieu to six Sharpsville seniors: Fyffe, Rupp, Morris, Ian Brown, Brian Ellison and Ryan Ruszkiewicz. “They’re going to all be missed; just a solid group of kids. I have them over to my house a lot. Just a good group,” Scurpa praised. ... Brown was ejected in the third inning — as per PIAA regulations -— for attempting to run over P-O catcher Adams on a force play at the plate. He had one of the Blue Devils’ handful of hits, in addition to Fyffe, Rupp, Morris and Davies. ... Marcinko and Maurer split four of the Mounties’ hits, with Czap stroking the other. ... P-O turned double plays to end Sharpsville’s first and second stanzas.
By Ed Farrell