DUNMORE?- Just make contact. That's all Josh Slocum wanted to do in his ninth inning at-bat against Jersey Shore's Chris Glunk. The goal was simple, but against the towering southpaw, it's easier said than done.
And after two hits in his previous four at-bats, Slocum didn't disappoint, as his short popup to right field fell into space and the game-winning run raced around the bases to score in Abington Heights' 4-3 win in nine innings over Jersey Shore in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs Monday at Marywood University.
With one out in the inning, Abington Heights' Tyler Ksiazek hustled to beat out a close play at first to set the table before Slocum dropped the first pitch he saw from Glunk between two diving Jersey Shore players. With both Zach Depasqua and Boone Costa on the ground, the ball rolled far enough for Ksiazek to race around and score the game's final run.
"I was just looking to put the ball in play," Slocum said. "It was a huge at-bat for the team and Ksiazek has great wheels on first and I was hoping to get the ball into the outfield and let him do his thing."
With solid outings from both starting pitchers and both relievers, both runs and hits were tough to come by for both teams.
Abington Heights' Dave Manasek limited the Bulldogs to three runs over 5 and 2/3 innings while striking out eight.
The right-hander pounded the strike zone while mixing in breaking pitches from multiple arm angles that kept Jersey Shore on its toes for the first three innings.
"After the first time through the lineup we did a good job putting the ball in play hard, but the first time through he definitely gave us some fits," Jersey Shore coach Matt O'Brien said. "He pitched a good ball game and I think the second kid did just as good."
After the Bulldogs knocked Manasek out of the game in the sixth inning, Ksiazek entered the game in relief and continued to make life difficult for Jersey Shore.
"We knew they had a good pitching staff coming in, but we were confident in our guys and we had them on the ropes in the third inning," O'Brien said. "They both pitched a heck of a ball game but we had nine hits and I'm so proud of the guys."
After allowing a run in the first inning, the Bulldogs battled back in the third to score two runs and take the lead, 2-1. Back-to-back doubles by Colton Potter and Zach Miller got Jersey Shore on the board, but Abington Heights made sure the lead didn't last, as the Comets rebounded with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the third inning.
The Comets held the 3-2 lead until the sixth when Ryan Huling singled home Chris Glunk to tie the game and force extra innings.
The game remained knotted at 3-3 until Slocum came through in the ninth to end the Bulldogs' season and continue Abington Heights' stellar playoff run.
"We have been getting those hits in this playoff run and we were fortunate today," Abington Heights coach Bill Zalewski said. "That game could have gone either way. They played an outstanding game."
"They played great," O'Brien said of the Bulldogs. "I said if we are going to end our season with two guys diving for a baseball, I'll take my chances."
Jersey Shore 002 001 000 3 8 1
Abington Hts. 102 000 001 4 7 1
Dave Manasek, Tyler Ksiazek and Steve Salmon. Travis Eiswerth, Chris Glunk and Eric Huling. W Ksiazek. L Glunk.
Top Abington Heights hitters: Josh Slocum 3-5, RBI; Tyler Ksiazek 3-5, 3 R; Brad Smertz 2-5, 2B, RBI, R. Top Jersey Shore hitters: Ryan Huling 1-4, RBI; Chris Glunk 2-4, R; Christian Rishel 1-5, 2B, BB.
Records: Abington Heights 13-5; Jersey Shore 17-4