CHESAPEAKE CITY — A smile broke across the face of Perryville senior first baseman Mike Newsome as he squeezed the ball in his glove for the final out and sprinted to join his teammates celebrating on the infield.
The Panthers baseball team couldn’t have picked a better time to snap a lengthy losing streak to its most heated in-county rival.
Starting pitcher Tyler Nasuta handcuffed the opposition over six dominant innings and Shawn Huth broke open a one-run game with a bases-clearing single in the top of the seventh as visiting Perryville ended a 19-game losing streak to Bohemia Manor with a 6-3 victory in the 1A East Region Section I semifinals on Saturday.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve been like 0-for-9, 0-for-10 against these guys and one and done in the playoffs,” said Newsome, the only senior on the roster. “We knew something had to change this year.”
The third-seeded Panthers (13-6), who suffered a two-game sweep at the hands of the No. 2 Eagles (16-4) during the regular season, recorded their first win against their Cecil County foe since April 2011. The outcome also marked their first victory in Chesapeake City since April 2010.
Perryville advances to Tuesday’s section final, where it will face undefeated Col. Richardson, which came from behind Saturday to beat Patterson Mill, 7-3.
“This was a huge game for us. Big time. This is the only team in the county that we hadn’t beaten this year and we wanted them bad,” first-year Perryville coach Ricky Davis said. “I asked them for 100 percent no matter what and they did that today.
“It’s absolutely magical,” he added. “Everyone is behind us this year, we’re trying to create a winning culture, a changing of the guard here, and I’m so proud of these guys.”
Two batters after Newsome was tagged out at the plate on a squeeze bunt for the second out of the seventh inning, Huth fouled off three straight pitches in an eight-pitch-at-bat before slicing a single into right-center field to score all three runners who were stealing on the pitch. The key hit turned Perryville’s narrow 3-2 lead into a 6-2 advantage entering the final half frame.
“I was nervous but I kept looking for the strike that I would be able to hit into the outfield. I found one that I liked and drove it,” explained Huth, a sophomore, who finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs. “We just blew the game open.”
While Bo Manor saw its first two batters in the bottom of the seventh reach via a walk and base hit, the next three players grounded out to end the game.
Perryville broke open a scoreless contest with three runs in the top of the third. Catcher Sam Richie laid down a bases-loaded bunt with one out that scored James Able from third and also allowed Newsome to cross the plate after the third baseman’s throw skipped past the first baseman.
The Panthers added another run when Jake Helensky scored Daniel Tserkis with a sacrifice fly to center field.
The Eagles responded with two runs in the bottom of the frame after Tyler Hayden singled to center, scoring Aidan Pressler and Austin Goudeaux, who both singled.
“Earlier in the year, even in practice, I kept preaching to them ‘small ball.’ I told them ‘there’s going to be times where we’re going to need to manufacture runs, you’re going to be in a tight game, a tight situation, and you have to put pressure on the defense. Good things happen when you swing the bat, when you put the ball in play,” Davis said. “That play there in the third inning with Sam putting a beautiful bunt down, we not only score the run, but it caused them to have a bad throw and scored another run. It was just like the momentum swung our way in a huge way.”
Nasuta, making only his fourth start of the season as he recovers from injury, set the tone with a perfect first inning. The junior allowed just four hits the rest of the way and finished with three strikeouts to earn the win.
He gave way to Dylan Nickle in the seventh, who allowed Goudeaux to score on a ground ball out by pinch-hitter Jacob Timchula but recovered to seal the win.
“We came in giving everything we’ve got. This was our last shot and had nothing to lose. We were here to play,” Nasuta said. “Personally, I tried not to think about who I was pitching against. I just go out there, I listen to my coaches, I follow my catcher and I trust my defense. I go out there and contact pitch. If they hit the ball, so be it. I trust my defense to make the play.”
Bo Manor won the previous four playoff contests against Perryville.
“That was more than a base hit,” Eagles head coach Gary Johnson said regarding Huth’s game-breaking single in the final frame. “At that point, it’s just one-on-one. Our pitcher against their batter, and he won. That’s it. He won. He executed and it was a timely hit. That’s the way it happens sometimes.
“Perryville’s a different team the way their playing now. They’re playing good baseball and they played good baseball today. They executed, they made the plays, they were fundamentally sound and we weren’t,” he continued. “We came into this game really hitting the ball well and Nasuta shut us down. We did not hit today like we have been hitting and that’s credit to him and his team.”
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