Center fielder Boone Costa furiously sprinted forward, trying to make a spectacular catch. He reached the ball and momentarily had that highlight-reel catch, but lost the ball when he hit the ground.
His hustle, though, was rewarded. Making the catch was inconsequential. Shamokin's three baserunners believing he made the catch was what mattered. Costa's near catch resulted in him throwing to second for a force out and when shortstop Colton Potter tagged out Nate Mallett trying to go back to second Jersey Shore had suddenly escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam unharmed.
The wacky sequence loomed large Saturday at Bowman Field as Chris Glunk and Travis Eiswerth combined on a five-hit shutout while helping Jersey Shore down Shamokin 2-0 in the District 4 Class AAA semifinals. The two-time defending champions earned a spot in their third straight final and will face Midd-West, a 2-1 winner over Mifflinburg, in Wednesday's championship.
"I knew I had my teammates behind me (outfielders Zach Miller and Zach DePasqua) and I just took a chance," Costa said. "I just missed it but it worked out for us."
Glunk threw five strong innings and improved to 6-0. He sailed through the first five innings but ran into trouble in the fifth when he sandwiched a walk between two hit batters. Just like that, Shamokin (10-11) had the tying and go-ahead runs on with no outs in a 2-0 game. Jersey Shore coach Matt O'Brien then brought in Eiswerth who struck out the first batter he faced.
Then chaos erupted.
Brody Young ripped a sinking liner into shallow center field. A stiff breeze quickly knocked down any ball hit in the air so Costa faced an uphill climb. But when he laid out, Shamokin's runners thought he made the catch, not realizing the ball had rolled under him on impact. Every runner headed back to his base, giving Costa and the defense the chance to make the game-changing play.
In the midst of everything, second baseman Eric Huling tagged out another runner but three outs already had been recorded. The runner on third crossed home before that fourth out, causing confusion as umpires temporarily rewarded Shamokin a run. After the run was taken back off the board Shamokin vehemently protested and head coach Billy Clark was ejected.
Lost in everything was how well Eiswerth performed under the extreme pressure. The right-hander entered with no outs and the bases loaded but has excelled in big spots throughout the season and delivered again. Eiswerth struck out three in two innings and allowed only a one-out single in the seventh inning. The six-game winner earned his second save.
"I have a good defense working with me and I felt like I was on so I was just throwing my game and I felt like I was throwing hard," Eiswerth said. "It's all about the win at this point, it's not about yourself it's just about helping your team move forward."
"Travis came into a tough spot and we had a break go our way," O'Brien said. He's more comfortable sometimes (in relief). He can't think. He just goes out there and throws and pumps strikes. We don't want to give any free passes and he's done a good job all year with that."
Jersey Shore took a 1-0 third-inning lead when Costa dropped a perfect lead-off bunt, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Zach Miller's clutch two-out, 0-2 single. Zach DePasqua helped make it 2-0 an inning later, hitting a two-out single and then scoring when the right fielder dropped a ball that Brody Smith hit down the line.
The Bulldogs have had much better offensive performances but it was enough following a nine-day layoff. Glunk struck out eight in five innings and let only two runners reach second during that time. It was the third straight district playoff game in which Jersey Shore shutout its opponent.
"They are great pitchers," Costa said. "I like the way our team is going right now. We give great effort and are playing with a lot of intensity."
"We're coming into these games going all-out," Eiswerth said. "We're doing everything we can to win. That's our mentality."
Christian Rishel went 2 for 3 and doubled for Jersey Shore, which has won eight of its last nine games.
Shamokin 000 000 0-0 5 2
Jersey Shore001 100 x-2 6 0
Austin Fry and Jon Deitrich. Chris Glunk, Travis Eiswerth (6) and Ryan Huling. W-Glunk, (6-0). L-Fry. SV-Eiswerth.
Top Shamokin hitters: Nate Mallett 1-2. Top Jersey Shore hitters: Christian Rishel 2-3, 2B; Zach DePasqua 1-1, R; Boone Costa 1-2, R; Zach Miller 1-3, RBI.
Records: Jersey Shore 16-3. Shamokin 10-11.