Eiswerth’s arm carries Bulldogs into PIAA playoffs

The last three years, Jersey Shore has scored nine runs in four playoff games at Bowman Field while delivering just nine hits in three district finals there.

The Bulldogs won all those games and enter Monday’s state tournament opener against Abington Heights as a three-time defending District Class AAA champion.

Not allowing a run in all four games can do that for a team. Last Wednesday was the most difficult district playoff game Jersey Shore (17-3) has played the last three years, but Travis Eiswerth would not let it lose. The junior right-hander threw a brilliant nine-inning complete game as the Bulldogs edged Midd-West in a 1-0 thriller.

“It’s definitely great to come through,” Eiswerth said. “It’s not what we expected. We would have liked to have gotten more run support but it’s a good team win.”

Eiswerth has won a lot the last two years. He has 11 wins during that time and is 7-1 this season. The junior has been instrumental to Jersey Shore capturing HAC-I and District 4 championships his two years pitching and has excelled in big games. Jersey Shore scored only three runs in two district wins but Eiswerth threw 11 straight scoreless innings as it won 2-0 and 1-0.

As effective as Eiswerth has been as a starter, he has been equally outstanding as a reliever. Earlier this season, he earned a win in relief, throwing two scoreless innings in a huge win at Montoursville and he repeated that performance in the district semifinals, despite entering with the bases loaded and no outs against Shamokin.

“Travis gives us a pretty good shot to win every time he pitches,” right fielder Zach DePasqua said after delivering the walk-off single against Midd-West. “That’s the way we feel.”

They are right. Eiswerth has won six straight and has allowed just a run or no runs in 10 of his last 11 appearances. The team’s most experienced pitcher has two saves to go along with his seven wins and 1.62 ERA. He also has thrown 13 straight scoreless innings.

As strong as Eiswerth was all season, he was at his best against Midd-West. There was no room for error and he never did make a mistake. Midd-West opened the game with consecutive hits and had runners on second and third, but Eiswerth retired the heart of the lineup in order, striking out two. After those two hits, Eiswerth was brilliant and let just three more balls to leave the infield while striking out seven.

“He did an awesome job,” Jersey Shore coach Matt O’Brien said. “He never gave in and battled and went the distance.”

Eiswerth was efficient, walking just one and rarely going to a three-ball count. As a result, his pitch count did not soar like Midd-West’s Colton Keister. He threw 119 pitches compared to Keister’s 162.

“I definitely felt tired but I felt like I could keep throwing hard and hitting my spots,” Eiswerth said. “I think he (O’Brien) sort of saw by the way I was acting that I wanted to stay in and that it was my game.”

Eiswerth repeatedly froze hitters with terrific pitches and had them off-balance all night. He does not overpower opponents but when one hits his spots, mixes his pitches and moves the ball around he does not have to.

Eiswerth is similar to last year’s ace Tellef Notevarp in that regard. Notevarp threw a shutout against Milton in last year’s district final while combining with Ben Saar to throw another in a 1-0 championship win two years ago. No doubt, Notevarp was happy to see Eiswerth building on the tradition.

“He was channeling his inner-Tellef,” O’Brien said. “We were going to roll with him because of the way he was pitching. He wasn’t getting hit hard consistently and most importantly he wasn’t giving up any free passes. Travis was our horse all year long and we were going to ride him the whole way long.”

Now Eiswerth and the Bulldogs hope the ride continues.