WILLIAMSPORT - Stepping into the batter's box with a chance to be a hero under the lights on a professional baseball field, Jersey Shore right fielder Zach DePasqua was not thinking about fulfilling a dream.
He simply was ready to go home. About 30 minutes later, that is where he was headed. And he and his teammates were headed back back champions once again.
DePasqua belted a ninth-inning, walk-off single and Travis Eiswerth threw a brilliant seven-hit shutout as Jersey Shore blanked Midd-West 1-0 in nine innings Wednesday at Historic Bowman Field and captured its third straight District 4 Class AAA championship.
Sentinel photo by MARK?NANCE
Jersey Shore’s Colton Potter, sliding, is out at second with Midd-West’s Aaron Sharp making the tag on the failed steal attempt. Hunter Shuff (6)?is covering on the play.
"I was just thinking let's get the game over with," DePasqua said. "It was a long game and I wanted to get a run in and help the team and win the game so we could survive and advance."
That is just what he did. The Bulldogs (17-3) are the only team in program history to win three straight titles and earned a spot in Monday's state tournament.
Jersey Shore earned its third straight title the hard way as Eiswerth pitched the game of his life and the defense repeatedly made big plays. DePasqua, Chris Glunk and Eric Huling combined to throw out a runner at home in the fifth inning and the Bulldogs finally found a way to deliver against Midd-West pitcher Colton Keister who throw a terrific three-hitter.
For eight innings, Jersey Shore could not touch Keister who allowed just two hits during that time. His pitch count was soaring, though, and Kaiden Brungard reached on a one-out error to ignite the ninth-inning rally. Glunk followed with a walk, setting the stage for DePasqua.
The junior worked a 1-1 count before depositing Keister's 162nd pitch into left field. O'Brien was sending Brungard the whole way and the senior third baseman easily scored, sliding in and then being engulfed by jubilant teammates as a large and enthusiastic fan section celebrated history being made.
"It felt real good. It's one of the feelings I've never had before," DePasqua said. "After a certain point of seeing him you just get that timing down and I got his timing down and squared up and hit one through the hole."
Eiswerth earned the save in Saturday's 2-0 win over Shamokin and was outstanding again, extending his postseason scoreless streak to 11 while giving DePasqua that ninth-inning opportunity.
Midd-West (13-9) opened the game with consecutive hits and had runners on second and third with no outs. Eiswerth was calm under pressure, retiring the next three and striking out two.
He became virtually untouchable after that, allowing just three hits to leave the infield. Eiswerth also struck out seven and pounded the strikezone, walking only one and rarely going to a three-ball count.
"I just took it inning by inning, pitch by pitch," Eiswerth said. "You can't really get into your own head. I went out there and pitched my own game."
And he pitched an outstanding one. Eiswerth won his seventh game and also nearly won the game in the seventh inning. After Brungard reached third with two outs, Eiswerth drilled a liner up the middle. Keister somehow got his glove up in time and made the catch while ducking.
Eiswerth remained unfazed and did not let that impact his pitching, retiing the last six batters he faced.
Huling robbed Aaron Sharp of a lead-off seventh-inning single by making a diving stop of a ball that was rocketing toward right field. Shortstop Colton Potter and Brungard at third base also made some big plays in a game where every play loomed so large.
The biggest came in that fifth inning when Midd-West's Alex Lash ripped a one-out single into right field. Luke Zimmerman tried scoring from second, but DePasqua scooped the ball up and made a strong relay throw to Glunk at first base. Glunk then made a perfect throw home, hitting Eric Huling chest high and Huling made the tag to record the game's biggest out. Eiswerth retired the next batter on a grounder and never let a runner reach second again.