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Decade’s best No. 8: Home run, bunt lifted South past Danville in 2012 thriller in baseball

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a series looking back at the Top 10 high school baseball teams, coaches, games and players from the last decade.

A mammoth Ryan Orgitano long ball gave South Williamsport the lead. Small ball won South the game and produced one of its most exciting finishes last decade.

Ryan Orgitano crushed a two-run first-inning home run and Andrew Gipe’s perfectly-placed suicide squeeze nine innings later helped South dethrone defending District 4 Class AA champion Danville and win a 3-2 semifinal cliff-hanger in 10 innings.

The Mounties not only reached the district final and their first state tournament appearance since 2002, but also paid back Danville a year after it had stomped it 15-1 in the semifinals.

“Hats off to them,” Danville coach Devin Knorr said afterward. “They did a great job of keeping us off balance and keeping us off the board. You have to give credit where credit’s due. South Williamsport is everything it’s advertised, and they deserve to win.”

Danville scored 11 first-inning runs in the 2011 semifinals, putting the game away early en route to capturing both the district title and reaching the state semifinals. That loss cast a shadow over another good South season and the Mounties attacked the offseason hard, redemption on their minds.

South rampaged its way to a 15-0 start and captured the HAC-III championship. It suffered a three-game losing streak late in the season, but had righted things and won four straight entering the semifinals. The Mounties earned District 4’s top seed and Alex Carpenter threw a two-hit complete-game gem in a 4-1 quarterfinal win against Montoursville.

Danville, like the previous season, had to fight just to reach the playoffs. Again, though, Danville was surging at the right time, winning its last three games to qualify before thumping Towanda and Wyalusing by a 12-2 margin in the first two rounds of districts.

Bucknell-bound senior Andrew Andreychik was one of the district’s top pitchers and dominated throughout the 2011 postseason. He threw a three-hit shutout against Wyalusing in the quarterfinals which included nine strikeouts four days earlier. He and the defending champions stood in South’s way of a finals berth again and the Mounties coveted this rematch opportunity.

It took Orgitano just one swing to show that this game would be nothing like the previous semifinal. The all-state first baseman had one of the best season’s in South history, hitting .636 with nine home runs and nearly 50 RBIs. His ninth home run was his most memorable as he tattooed an Andreychik fastball over the left-center field fence at Bowman Field and put South up, 2-0.

“I don’t think that ball’s landed yet,” Carpenter said. “I think that was the farthest ball I’ve ever seen hit.”

Andreychik changed his tactics following Orgitano’s blast and settled in, again looking like his dominant self. He surrendered just two hits the rest of the way and struck out 12 before reaching the PIAA-mandated nine-inning limit.

“He can probably beat any team in the state when he’s on,” South coach Shawn Finn said. “He tried to beat us with his fastball early on and it wasn’t working. Then he came with his off speed stuff and really kept us off balance.”

Carpenter, however, was just as brilliant. He had taken the loss against Danville the previous season and showed how much better he now was, throwing seven strong innings. South held its 2-0 lead until the sixth when a single, balk and two grounders made a one-run game. An inning later, Danville drew consecutive walks and Shane Kozick’s RBI single tied the game, 2-2, and forced extra innings.

Finn went with Cal Missigman in relief and Missigman stifled Danville over three outstanding innings. He mowed through Danville for three innings and the offense finally came alive against Kozick, who replaced Andreychik to start the 10th inning.

Freshman Anthony Caruso showed no big-game nerves and smashed a leadoff double, putting the winning run 180 feet away. Scott pinch-ran and nearly everyone at Bowman Field knew Zach Staver would be bunting. Many, however, likely thought the bunt was off after he had two strikes. Unfazed, Finn had him bunt again and Staver did his job, putting into fair territory and moving Scott to third.

Finn called on small ball again when Gipe came up and the right fielder nearly won the game with a 1-1 suicide squeeze attempt before it rolled just foul.

Conventional wisdom again said South would not roll the dice on a two-strike bunt, but Finn again dialed it up. Scott broke for home as Kozick delivered the pitch and was closing in on Gipe as he dropped a textbook bunt up the first-base line and not no-man’s land. Scott easily scored and Danville’s only hope was that the ball would roll foul but it never did. Orgitano’s 400-foot blast set the stage and Gipe’s 10-foot bunt brought the curtain down on Danville’s repeat hopes as South won, 3-2.

“I was surprised we went back to it,” Gipe said. “Usually you don’t bunt with two strikes there, but I was able to get it down. He (Kozick) gave me a strike and I put it on the first-base line.”

Finn originally let Gipe swing away. Knowing he was a right-field hitter, Finn gave him one strike to attack and try to win it with a hit or a grounder to the right side. After there was one strike, Finn played a hunch and it resulted in a dramatic victory one year in the making.

“Two strikes and I’m like it worked once, let’s try it again with two strikes,” Finn said. “He got it down and it was perfect.”

And a year after suffering such a tough loss, South had a big revenge win and a perfect ending.

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