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Baseball: Lions prep for sub-regional

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No team likes self-inflicted wounds.

Last Wednesday, a Dock Mennonite (13-4) team eyeing its fifth straight PIAA appearance exploited walks and hit batsmen to post a five-run fourth and defeat New Hope-Solebury 5-3.

“(Starter) Deven (Smith) started out great,” said New Hope skipper Tony Vlahovic. “But Dock is fundamentally well coached and when you make mistakes, they are going to put it to you. Deven wasn’t at 100 percent but he said ‘Coach, I’ll give it my best.’ He has a lot of guts.”

The Lions took solace with two thoughts: one was six shutout innings versus Dock. The second was preparation for sub-regionals.

“It absolutely felt like playoffs,” said Naval Academy-commit Blake Doherty who threw 3.1 scoreless innings. “They’re a great team, but we were competing the entire time. We’re going to be facing similar teams in districts so we need to get in that mindset right now. Close games like this, even though it doesn’t go in our favor, puts us in the right mindset.”

The first three crisp innings took just 39 minutes. Dan Khouri’s RBI single scoring Doherty was the game’s first run. Dock struck in the fourth; the Lions retaliated in the bottom of the frame with Kyle Campbell singling home Jack Gawason and Connor Campbell driving in Khouri.

“I looked early for any fastball in the zone that I liked,” Khouri described. “When (Mason Keller) threw me a curveball, I did what you’re supposed to do with it and put it into right-center field.”

The Lions ended their regular season last Thursday with a 13-3 thumping of MaST Charter. New Hope-Solebury (16-4) earned the two seed in the Class 3A District One/11 bracket, where they will host No. 3 Palmerton in Saturday’s semifinals.

“I’m confident that if we play our game, we’ll be okay,” Vlahovic stated.

“It is difficult being in a sub-region. You can go on MaxPreps and see batting averages, but you really don’t how a team plays. We have to assume they play like a Dock or a Holy Ghost Prep. We need to play every day, solid and fundamentally strong.”

New Hope will be a tough out. The team slugging percentage is .566, led by Cam Mertz’s .851. Derek Smith has 13 extra base hits.

“I feel like, from one to nine, everyone can hit,” Khouri explained.

“Connor Campbell, our nine hitter, has three home runs. When a kid goes up there, we know he is capable.”

Doherty has 66 strikeouts in 36.1 innings while Deven Smith has a 2.71 ERA to lead the arms. Vlahovic credited New Hope’s earlier 10-game win streak to the defense that backs the pitching.

“(Depth) is everything,” Doherty said. “That was the problem at the beginning of this year: we lost so many starters. For Deven to step up when we need him has been unbelievable.”

“That’s what I was hoping to see: that playoff atmosphere to get them ready,” Vlahovic offered last Wednesday. “We’ll learn from today.”

Also: The Palisades Pirates drew the No. 4 seed in the District 1/11 Class 3A sub-regional. They travel to No. 1 Notre Dame Green Pond (15-5) on Saturday. Behind David Platt’s two RBI, the Pirates beat NDGP 5-4 in their lone regular season matchup.

Palisades hopes to recapture some of the mojo that triggered their 10-4 start. Much of their success is predicated on an offense that averages nine runs per game. Platt, a junior, made the Colonial All-League team this spring. He was joined by first baseman Jake Welsh (second team) and catcher Kyle Oechsle (honorable mention). Ethan Brader has thumped seven two-baggers for the Pirates.


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