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By Scott Huff
There were two Suburban One League American Conference teams that earned berths in the PIAA District One Class AAA playoffs – conference champion Upper Moreland and Upper Merion.
Upper Moreland was awarded the number three seed and opened play against visiting Upper Perkiomen – the number six seed. Upper Merion was the seventh seed and traveled to number two seeded Strath Haven.
So much for the seeding process.
Upper Merion ‘upset’ Strath Haven 6-4, while Upper Perkiomen ‘upset’ Upper Moreland 11-5. Upper Merion will meet Upper Perkiomen in a second round game at a neutral site on Thursday (May 21).
“I think that shows you that any of the eight teams that were in the playoffs are capable of being a number one seed,” said Upper Moreland head coach Ernie Rehr. “The teams were all pretty even.”
“It would have been emotionally good for our team to play Upper Moreland,” said Upper Merion head coach Jason Darnell. “But Upper Moreland beat us both times during the regular season, so maybe playing someone else will be better for us.”
Upper Merion 6 – Strath Haven 4
Upper Merion used a grand slam homerun off the bat of Joel Paradis and the strong right arm of Chris Baker to earn the playoff victory.
“The third inning was a perfect inning for us,” said Darnell. “We did the things that we wanted to do, and we scored some important runs.”
Ryan Dolga led off the inning for the Vikings by working a walk. Matt Shannon was up to sacrifice bunt and beat out the perfectly placed bunt for a single.
The Vikings loaded the bases with no outs when James O’Toole followed Shannon’s example and beat out a bunt for a single.
And Paradis unloaded the bases for the grand salami with a shot over the left field fence.
“Joel hit a bomb,” said Darnell. “Those four runs got us off to the good start.”
Baker allowed an unearned run in the first inning, and the Vikings led 6-1 going into the bottom of the seventh. Baker completed the game but surrendered three runs in the last frame to make the game close.
“They actually brought the tying run to the plate,” said Darnell. “But Chris hung in there – he was over 100 pitches for the game.
“Chris had his fast ball working and was hitting his spots,” added Darnell. “And we made some nice defensive plays behind him.”
Upper Merion turned three 6-4-3 double plays to get out of innings. The ‘6’ man is shortstop Greg McCuch, the ‘4’ man is second baseman Dolga, and the ‘3’ man is first baseman Ben Dworecki.
“We had some timely hitting, some good pitching, and we were almost flawless in the field,” said Darnell. “And we get to play another game.”
Upper Perkiomen 11 – Upper Moreland 5
Upper Moreland did not save its best for the playoffs as Upper Perkiomen jettisoned the Golden Bears from the playoffs,
“If you don’t play your best game, you usually go home,” said Rehr. “And we didn’t play our best game.
“Today’s game was a great way for the underclassmen to see what it takes to get to the next level,” said Rehr. “We graduate five seniors, but we have our entire infield – our catcher – and our number two and number three pitchers back next season.”
Upper Moreland will lose seniors Mike Rosenbaum, Steve Sawa, Brandon Watts, Jason Montgomery, and Greg Beyerle.
“I told the kids after the game not to forget that this was a championship season,” said Rehr. “We really don’t have any complaints about what we accomplished this season.”
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