Breen learned from past mistake in Mounties’ district victory

As the ball slowly rolled between the pitcher’s mound and third base, Tripp Breen experienced a flashback.

The South Williamsport pitcher remembered a scenario early this season in which he hustled after the baseball, retrieved it, but did not throw it as the runner reached first base. This time Sayre had the winning runner on second base, but Breen did not hesitate.

Given a second chance, Breen pounced, quickly grabbed the ball and unleashed a rocket toward first baseman Logan Burkett. The throw and the catch had to be perfect to retire James Esposito and close out Sayre in the top of the seventh inning of Wednesday’s District 4 Class AA championship. Both were. And a few minutes later, Pete Sinibaldi hit a walkoff single as South won, 2-1, and celebrated its second straight championship.

“We worked on that in practice,” Breen said after throwing a four-hitter and striking out 10. “We did it in a scrimmage once and I held it and I told myself I’m never going to hold it again.”

Had Breen not learned from the past, had he not made a good throw and had Burkett not made an impressive grab, the game’s outcome could have been different. If the throw is off the mark, but Burkett knocks it down, Sayre has runners on first and third. If Breen’s throw sails past Burkett, Sayre scores and likely has a runner on second. Maybe South comes back and ties it, but even in that scenario, the game might not have been completed as a drenching thunderstorm unloaded rain five minutes later that made the field unplayable for the remainder of the day.

This play will not show up in the boxscore, but one better believe it was an enormous reason South repeated for the first time in program history. The game’s complexion could have drastically been altered if Breen and Burkett did not combine on what became the game’s defining defensive play.

“I went way over there and then I thought, ‘you have to go for it in a big situation like that,'” Breen said. “Logan made a great pick over there. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.”

Breen made big pitch after big pitch again yesterday while winning his ninth straight start. Baseball is a funny game, though, and his best throw might not have involved a pitch. It was impressive that Breen covered the ground that he did and to make a difficult throw across his body bumped up the degree of difficulty.

Like Joe Montana finding Dwight Clark against the Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship for the winning touchdown, there was both a great throw and great catch on this meaningful play. Breen did his part and then Burkett delivered as well.

Breen made a good throw that did not hit the ground. But it also required Burkett to go low and make a quality catch with the ball tailing downward. The senior, who has provided good pitching, hitting and defense all season, stretched out and made that catch as South thwarted a potential Sayre rally. As the skies darkened, South’s prospects brightened and both the dugout and fans came alive.

“At the beginning of the season Tripp would be really slow with those,” Burkett said. “The other day at practice, he and I were working on it and we really got it down. It showed there. He got it over there quick.”

So much goes into producing a win. Often it is the plays many do not talk about that prove so crucial. Spread the word.

This was one of those plays.