DALLAS TWP. — It was only the top of the first inning, but Nick Kocher was in a jam.
The Dallas right-hander had walked a pair of Tunkhannock batters and was in the midst of a long battle against the Tigers’ No. 5 hitter Matt Goodwin.
Goodwin fouled off eight pitches. Kocher, having been in pressure situations before, reached back and on the 12th pitch of the at-bat, recorded the strikeout to end the inning.
From there, the senior settled in, only allowing one hit and striking out 10 in 5.1 innings as the Mountaineers shut out the Tigers 5-0. They advanced to Wednesday’s District 2 Class 4A title game against Valley View at 7:30 p.m. at PNC Field. Valley View defeated Berwick 6-4 on Thursday night.
“He’s a gamer. He’s a competitor. Six of the seven elimination games last year he started. So a 12-pitch at-bat early in the game is not gonna phase him that much,” Dallas coach Ken Kashatus said of his starting pitcher. “He’s been in big spots, late in games in the state playoffs where everything’s on the line. The season’s on the line here, it’s an elimination game, but the score, the innings, there wasn’t as much pressure, maybe. But it’s unique to have an at-bat go that long.”
Kocher had to throw 29 pitches in the first inning. He didn’t go over 17 in an inning the rest of the afternoon. Tunkhannock didn’t get a base runner past second base, and the only hit the team managed was a lead-off single in the third by No. 9 hitter Evan Sackman.
“If there’s been a bad inning for him in the past, it’s been (the first) inning,” Kashatus said. “But he managed to right the ship just enough to stay in the game, have a couple quick innings and his pitch count becomes more regular. He gets himself back on track in the later innings.”
The Mountaineers got all of their offense in the first two innings. Kocher, who also finished 2-for-3, brought in the game’s first run in the bottom of the first on a RBI single. Dallas also scored two more in the first on a pair of Tunkhannock errors.
Dallas tacked on two more runs in the second inning on three hits, highlighted by a run-scoring single by Mike Luksic.
Tunkhannock starter Jake Stephens, along with relievers Donnie Faux and Carter Shupp, contained the Dallas offense to just one ball hit in the outfield over the final four innings.
Dallas didn’t manage any more hits, and only reached base via four walks after the second inning. It was the second straight day that the Mountaineers had offensive woes. On Wednesday, the top seed edged eighth-seeded Honesdale 2-1.
“We didn’t have as many good swings as I would like. And credit the Tunkhannock guys — changing speeds is the hardest thing a batter has to adapt to and we dealt with three different Tunkhannock pitchers today,” Kashatus said. “I wish we were bombing (offensively) like we were at the end of last year. We’re not, but we’re winning. We’re gonna have to maximize our opportunities with guys on base.
“We’re going to the dance, and congratulations to us. It’s great stuff. But our batters, we have to have some better mojo.”
CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS
Meyers 10, Montrose 5
Anthony Macko finished 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and two RBI as the fifth-seeded Mohawks put up seven runs in the first two innings on the road.
Blake Bynon (three hits), Nick Pugh and Nick Galey all drove in two runs apiece while Kenny Macko struck out seven in five innings for the win against the No. 4 Meteors.
Meyers advanced to the semifinals take on No. 1 Lakeland at 5 p.m. Friday at the University of Scranton. Hanover Area will host Friday’s other semifinal, playing at 4:30 p.m. against Mid Valley, which beat Carbondale 13-1 on Thursday. The winners of both games will clinch spots in the state tournament.
CLASS 2A QUARTERFINALS
Northwest 10, Elk Lake 6
Down 6-3 after five innings, the sixth-seeded Rangers scored twice in the sixth and went ahead in the seventh on a two-run single by David Piestrak (3-4). Brandon Hardiman (3-5) followed with a two-run triple for some insurance.
Connor Hazlet finished 4-for-4 with a double and five RBI. Piestrak picked up the win in relief.
Northwest will take on No. 7 Mountain View in Friday’s semifinal, which will be played at 4:30 p.m. at Berwick’s field. The other semifinal will have Old Forge hosting Holy Cross, which beat Lackawanna Trail 10-5 in nine innings on Thursday.
CLASS 6A SEMIFINALS
Williamsport 14, West Scranton 2
The top-seeded Millionaires ended the game early with an Ethen Stryker grand slam in the bottom of the fifth to trigger the mercy rule in a game at Bucknell University.
That sets up a District 2-4 subregional championship between No. 3 Hazleton Area and Williamsport at 6 p.m. Monday at PNC Field, with the winner advancing to states.
If Hazleton Area loses there, the Cougars would then close out the season by play West Scranton for the District 2 crown on June 1.
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