MOOSIC – Pitching in a scoreless game against the top team in Class AAA for the district title could make anyone feel a little on edge. Apparently no one told this to sophomore Tyler Ksiazek.
“We live for this,” Ksiazek said. “We live for big games. I knew we’d come through in the end.”
Ksiazek proved his confidence was well-deserved.
Ksiazek pitched a complete game shutout to lead Abington Heights past Valley View 5-0 for the Class AAA district title Monday at PNC Field and put the Comets into the state high school baseball playoffs.
Much of the game was a duel between Ksiazek and the Cougars starting pitcher, senior John Kranick. The two found success on the mound through different styles. Kranick used an array of punchout pitches to send Abington Heights hitters down, racking up 10 strikeouts in a complete game effort, while Ksiazek was more inclined induce ground balls and weak fly outs and let the stalwart defense behind him take care of the rest.
“We have a great defense,” Ksiazek said. “Our defense has been there all year…I just throw it over the plate and let them make the plays and I know we’ll come out on top.”
Both starters kept the other side in check for the first four innings. In the fifth, the Comets finally broke through. Sophomore designated hitter James Fayocavitz hit a single and followed it up with a steal to get into scoring position.
Ksiazek, not content with simply pitching, hit a single of his own to knock in the first run of the game. Ksiazek tallied two hits, a run, and an RBI on the day.
The Cougars started the sixth inning with the top of the order at bat and looked to be in prime position to tie the game or even retake the lead. Ksiazek responded to this challenge with his best inning of the game. Ksiazek retired the side on only three pitches, severely limiting Valley View’s chance to comeback.
Valley View head coach Jason Munley said he credited Ksiazek’s ability to consistently throw first-pitch strikes as a big key to his success.
“He’s a dynamite pitcher,” Munley said. “He’s going to be a great one and he’s only a sophomore. I’ve watched him play before and this is exactly what I expected…The guys hit some of the balls hard today, they just couldn’t find any holes.”
The Comets got some insurance runs in the seventh. Fayocavitz started the inning by getting hit by a pitch. Back to back infield singles by junior Kyle Tierney and Ksaizek loaded the bases. A sacrifice fly by junior Brad Smertz started off the scoring.
Kranick came within an out of allowing only one run in his final inning. Senior Dante Pasqualichio came through with a base-clearing single with two outs. Pasqualichio was tagged out in a rundown, but the damage had already been done and the Comets led 5-0.
Abington Heights head coach Bill Zalewski said his team’s patience in the final inning helped them break open the game.
“John is a phenomenal pitcher, he’s got a bright future ahead of him,” Zalewski said. “To work him like we did and get some opportunities, that was big for us. That was the key right there, getting baserunners.”
Ksiazek allowed only one hit in the final inning. He finished the shutout, allowing only five hits and no walks along with four strikeouts.
Abington Heights improves to 12-5 on the season, while Valley View ends the year with a 14-3 record. It is the first district title and first state playoff appearance for the Comets since 2009.