Late rally carries Knoch past Abington Heights in PIAA Class 3A baseball championship

Abington Heights’ Nick Carlini consoles teammate Jimmy Fayocavitz after the Comets’ 7-5 loss to Knoch in the PIAA Class 3A baseball championship game June 12 in University Park.

Abington Heights’ senior Tyler Ksiazek, who had three hits, reacts after hitting a triple.

Abington Heights’ outfielder Eric Salerno slides into second base.

Abington Heights’ second baseman Zach Spangenberg drove in two runs.

Abington Heights catcher Zach Campbell had two hits and an RBI.

UNIVERSITY PARK — Abington Heights entered the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 3A baseball championship game with a 15-game winning streak.

Despite a positive start, Knoch High School starting pitcher Cole Shinsky made sure the streak wouldn’t reach 16.

Shinsky, a junior, scattered eight hits over seven innings to lead Knoch past Abington Heights, 7-5, at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Friday, June 12.

District 2 champion Abington Heights struck for two runs in the top of the second inning. After Eric Salerno singled, Zach Manasek walked and Jimmy Fayocavitz reached on a fielder’s choice, Zach Spangenberg drove in two runs with a single.

“Not many teams do it, only two teams do it from our (classification),” Spangenberg said of playing in the state championship game, “but it’s tough to lose.”

Knoch, the District 7 champion, answered with four runs in the bottom of the second. Asa Adams singled and scored on an error, Dominick Bucko drove in a run with a walk, Chris Law reached on a fielder’s choice and drove in a run and Shinsky delivered an RBI single for the Knights.

Sophomore Ryan Harvey replaced starter Zach Manasek on the mound for the Comets with two outs in the second inning and allowed one run on two hits in 1 1/3 innings.

“Harvey has pitched great for us all year,” Abington Heights head coach Bill Zalewski said. “We knew coming in that if Zach got into a little bit of trouble early, we were going to go right to him and he kept us right in the ball game. I’m very proud of the effort he gave today for such a young kid.”

Garrett Traggiai came through with an RBI single in the bottom of the third inning to stretch Knoch’s lead to 5-2.

Abington Heights bounced back with three runs to tie the game in the top of the fourth inning. Zach Campbell drove in a run with a single and Tyler Ksiazek knocked in two with a triple.

“They worked hard to get those runs back when we were down 5-2,” Zalewski said. “It just shows how much heart and determination they have as a team.”

Ksiazek entered the game on the mound for the Comets in the bottom of the fourth inning and allowed just one hit before Knoch (25-2) broke through for two runs with two outs in the sixth inning. Bucko began the rally with a triple and Law followed with an RBI single.

“He’s been there for us all year, him and Zach,” Zalewski said. “They threw their hearts out today and, as a coach, I can’t ask for anything more.”

Shinsky also drove in his second run of the game during the sixth inning.

Despite the loss, Zalewski praised his team’s effort in this game and throughout the season.

“They played their hearts out and were just so much fun to be around,” he said. “As the year progressed, they became a tighter and tighter group. It just shows what you can do when you have heart and come together as a group.”

Ksiazek also reflected on the Comets’ season, which ended at 18-4.

“It was just an unbelievable experience,” Ksiazek said. “A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Even though things didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, I think we’re going to take this experience with us for the rest of our lives.”

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