Abington Heights uses big inning, strong pitching to advance in PIAA baseball playoffs

Abington Heights catcher Zach Campbell delivered an RBI single during the Comets, 6-1, win over Manheim Central in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class 3A baseball playoffs June 4 in Fredericksburg.

Abington Heights pitcher Zach Manasek allowed six hits while striking out 10 batters in the Comets, 6-1, win over Manheim Central in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class 3A baseball playoffs June 4 in Fredericksburg.

Comets second baseman Zach Spangenberg slides around the tag of Manheim Central catcher Skylar Wilson during the second inning of Abington Heights, 6-1, win in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class 3A baseball playoffs June 4 in Fredericksburg.

FREDERICKSBURG — Momentum can play a big factor in sports and for Abington Heights, that has been the case.

The Comets are now riding a 14-game winning streak, and have not lost since April 25, after their 6-1 win over Manheim Central in the quarterfinals of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Class 3A baseball playoffs on Thursday, June 4 at Wenger Field.

While Manheim Central struggled to execute at the plate with runners in scoring position, Abington Heights came through with timely hits, specifically in the second inning when the Comets scored five runs.

After Barons starting pitcher Tanner Fahnestock retired the first two Comets hitters, Abington Heights first baseman Matt McDonald started the rally with an infield single. The next batter, pitcher Zach Manasek, drove a triple over the head of right fielder Brendan Good. Shortstop Jimmy Fayocavitz followed with an RBI single and scored on an error by Manheim Central’s Blake Reiff. Catcher Zach Campbell and designated hitter Tyler Ksiazek also provided RBI doubles in the inning.

“That was real big,” Abington Heights head coach Bill Zalewski said of scoring the early runs. “It takes a lot of pressure off our hitters and pitcher, and puts pressure on the other team.”

Manasek allowed two baserunners in the bottom of the second inning, but worked out of trouble by striking out the final two Barons batters.

Manheim Central loaded the bases in the bottom of the third with two outs after a single, walk and hit batter, but Manasek recovered with a strikeout to end the threat.

“(Manasek) was tough on the mound,” Manheim Central head coach Matt Huber said. “He would bend, but he wouldn’t break. You can’t leave runners on base in a state playoff game.”

Abington Heights added to its lead in the top of the fourth inning when center fielder Colin McCreary drove in Ksiazek with a sacrifice fly.

The Barons left the bases loaded again in the bottom of the sixth. Good and Skylar Wilson singled and Peter Breit was hit by a pitch, but Manasek got a pop out and strikeout to get out of the inning without allowing a run.

“I kept thinking that I just have to throw strikes and I can’t leave pitches up,” Manasek said. “I’ve been in tough situations all year, we all have, and I just thought back to those and stuck to my mechanics.”

Manheim Central pushed a run across in the bottom of the seventh inning on a single by Fahnestock with one out, but Manasek retired the final two batters to seal the victory.

“Zach (Manasek) put us on his shoulders and carried us through that game,” Zalewski said. “He threw an amazing game…unbelievable.”

Abington Heights (17-3) will play Pottsville (23-4) in the semifinals at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 8 at Easton High School for the chance to advance to the Class 3A championship game at Penn State University.

“We came a long way (as a team),” Manasek said. “It shows how hard we’ve worked since the offseason to now.”

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