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Persun ignites rally; Berry walks it off and Muncy wins playoff thriller against Southern

As Kadyn Berry’s looper sailed into left field, Gio Persun made the dash of his life. As he approached home, Persun noticed his teammates telling him to slide and then … Well, then it was chaos.

Persun was engulfed by happy teammates as Muncy celebrated one of its most exciting playoff wins in recent memory. Talk about a senior moment.

Persun smashed a one-out double before scoring on Berry’s walk-off single as Muncy edged Southern Columbia, 3-2 in a riveting District 4 Class AA quarterfinal. Branson Eyer hit a game-tying sixth-inning home run, Ross Eyer threw four shutout innings in relief and Muncy exacted revenge against last year’s finalists who had beaten it in nine innings in the 2021 quarterfinals.

“It was a really cool experience when I touched home and saw all my teammates there waiting for me,” Persun said. “I’ll remember that for a long time.”

So will his teammates.

Southern returned most of its starters from last year’s finalist and led from the third inning until the sixth. But despite its top hitter being injured, Muncy never buckled. The Mid-Penn champions shined under pressure, took Southern’s best shots and kept coming back. Ultimately, the Indians hit even harder.

Muncy (18-3) earned a spot in Tuesday’s semifinals against defending champion Sayre, won for the ninth time in 10 games and showcased its character as much as its talent.

“It was great we got the matchup, and we knew it would be a great game. Southern is a good program and has good coaches, so we knew it would be tough,” Muncy coach Chris Persing said. “The crowd was great on both sides and it was a just a great atmosphere for playoff baseball. It was very exciting and it was really fun seeing them mob Gio after he scored the winning run.”

Despite having 18 wins and capturing a league title, Muncy was perceived as the underdog in this one. The thing is, this team could not care less what others say. The Indians know what they can do and again proved it in dramatic fashion.

“We definitely had that chip on our shoulder,” Persun said. “It doesn’t matter what anyone else thought. We knew we were the better team and we deserved this win and should get it. That’s what drove us to come back from that 2-1 deficit and put it away.”

Branson Eyer tied the game with his one-out home run in the sixth inning before Ross Eyer delivered on a promise he made his teammates entering the seventh. Ross said he would keep Southern off the scoreboard before Muncy walked it off; then started turning words into action by striking out the final two Southern hitters in the seventh.

Persun homered in the second inning to put Muncy up 1-0 and was confident when he came up with one out in the seventh. The senior, who also excelled in his initial start at first base, had not seen a curveball since hitting one for his home run. He expected a fastball on 0-2, received it and nearly hit it over the fence.

Persun’s blast reached the left-center field fence and gave Berry a chance to end it. The sophomore who so often does the little things right than did a huge thing. Berry hit the walk-off single as Muncy won its first playoff game in six years.

“Kadyn has great approaches at the plate. He has a good level head when he’s up there and he understands what he’s doing,” Persing said.. “He hits it where it’s pitched and sees if see can get some green. He came through and did enough to get it over (shortstop Jake) Cambria’s head.”

Southern scored twice in the third inning to go up 2-1, but Branson and Ross Eyer shut them down from there and allowed just four hits. Each pitched out of tough spots as well, frequently leaving runners on base. Muncy has had to shuffle both its lineup and defense since super sophomore Noah Confer was injured but it again found a way to deliver, backing up its pitchers with strong defense.

Muncy was one of the field’s youngest teams a year ago when Southern rallied late to defeat it. A year older and better, Muncy never blinked when times grew tough. And now a team which won its first league championship since 2011 still has district title dreams as well.

“It really didn’t impact the guys that much. We needed someone to step up and get us grooving and Branson got us going with that home run,” Persing said. “That experience was huge for those guys and it was a great win.”

“The momentum we’re carrying and energy we have is tremendous,” Persun said. “We want to try and ride that as far as we can.”

Southern 002 000 0–2 4 0

Muncy 010 001 1–3 5 1

Matt Masala and Owen Sosnoski. Branson Eyer, Ross Eyer (4) and Braydon Kamerer. W–Ross Eyer, (6-2). L–Masala.

Top Southern hitters: Connor Dunkleberger 2-4. Top Muncy hitters: Gio Persun 2-3, HR, 2B, 2R; Branson Eyer 1-3, HR; Alex Maioriana 1-2, 2B; Kadyn Berry 1-3, RBI.

Records: Muncy 18-3.

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