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PIAA Preview: Williamsport (13-6) vs. Bensalem (21-3)

Class AAAAAA baseball

Williamsport (13-6) vs. Bensalem (21-3)

at Pine Grove, Noon

Bensalem road to quarterfinals

In District 1, beat Central Bucks South, 5-3; Souderton, 6-3; Conestoga, 10-0 and Council Rock North, 7-5; in states, beat Parkland, 1-0

Bensalem notes: The Fighting Owls captured their first district championship and scored at least five runs in all four district wins. Adam Smith slowed Bensalem’s offense in Monday’s state opener, but the Owls bunched three hits together in the second inning, scoring the game’s only run on Dominic Grady’s RBI single. Grady is one of five Owls hitting above .300. Stephen Aldrich, a Monmouth-bound, threw a 3-hit shutout against Parkland and struck out nine. With Aldrich unavailable to pitch again, Bensalem will likely go with Nick Dean. The junior right-hander is a Maryland commit who throws in the mid to upper 80s and who has teamed with Aldrich to give Bensalem a pair of aces. Dean earned the District 1 quarterfinal win against Souderton, allowing four hits in four innings and striking out six. He also earned the win in the district final. Nick Fossile also is an option and he averages more than a strikeout per inning. Bensalem opened the season 7-0 and has won eight straight games. Scott Rooney hit two doubles against Parkland and center fielder Keith Parrish made a terrific late-game catch that saved a run. Parrish, Rooney, Aldrich and Dean all were Suburban I Conference all-stars last year and Bensalem returned all but four players from last year’s team.

Winner plays: Either District 12 champion LaSalle or District 3 runner-up Red Lion

Williamsport road to quarterfinals

In District 2, beat West Scranton, 14-2 and Hazleton, 4-3; in states, beat Downingtown East, 4-1

Williamsport notes: The Millionaires are playing in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2002 and are seeking their first semifinal appearance since that same season. Williamsport has captured consecutive district championships and built a 4-0 second-inning lead against Downingtown East. That was the second straight game in which the Millionaires led 4-0 in the second inning, but were held scoreless the rest of the way. Brayton Rowello and Cody Shimp hit two-run home runs in the first two innings as Williamsport took that lead last Monday. Tanner Esposito threw five scoreless innings, scattering three hits and striking out four. Esposito is 3-0 this postseason and 5-1 over the past two years. The UMBC-bound senior also is 8-1 this season. Shimp will pitch at St. Bonaventure next spring and has closed out all three playoff wins. Shimp left the bases loaded in a one-run game against Hazleton and stranded runners at the corners after entering in the sixth Monday with two on and no outs. Shimp and Quentin Brown each have hit seven home runs. He, Shimp and Rowello all had two hits against Downington East. Williamsport has won 12 of 14 games since starting the season 1-4.

— By CHRIS MASSE

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