All Sayre had done all year is hit. The Redskins had scored nearly a dozen runs a game this season, and plated sixteen runs in two playoff game en route to a district title. Enter R.J. Santasiero. Riverside’s ace was dominant once again Monday, as the southpaw’s nasty curveball flummoxed Sayre’s lineup all game and the Vikings defeated Sayre, 7-1, in the first round of the PIAA AA Baseball Championships at Bowman Field Monday evening.
“He used (the curveball) in good spots. He was ahead in the count a lot. I noticed he threw a lot of pitches hard inside and soft. We only got 3 hits and that’s almost unheard of for this offense,” Sayre Coach Jamie VanDuzer said after the game.
The game started out in promising fashion for the Redskins. Riverside loaded the bases against Sayre starter David Northup in the top of the first with only out. But, Northup worked himself out of the jam and struck out the final two batters of the inning to keep the game scoreless.
Sayre would threaten in the bottom of the first. Brayden Horton hit a one out double and Northup walked with two outs. But, Zach Moore flew out to center field to end the inning.
Northup retired the side in order in the top of the second, and the Sayre offense went to work.
Zach Garrity singled to lead off the inning, and Kanon Vanduzer and Mason Houseknecht walked to load the bases with no outs. After Santasiero struck out Jackson Hubbard to record the first out, Jake Burgess lined out to center, scoring Garrity on a sac fly to make it 1-0, Redskins. Sayre wanted more with the dangerous Brayden Horton up at the plate, but Santasiero threw his best pitch of the day in a 1-2 count as he started a curveball seemingly behind the lefty Horton out of the hand that broke over the plate for a called strike three. New pitch tracking technology at Bowman Field said the pitch had 18 inches of horizontal movement, an amount that the major league pitchers who will be playing at Bowman Field in two months would be jealous of.
Riverside took the lead for good in the top of the third. After a leadoff out, Santasiero doubled. Mason Rickert singled right back through the box to make it 1-1. Then, with two outs, Trevor Balcerzak hit another single back up the middle as the Vikings made it 2-1. Santasiero made quick work of the Redskins in the bottom of the third and it stood at 2-1 after three innings of play. Both teams went down in order in the fourth, keeping it 2-1 after four innings.
Riverside would put together a rally in the fifth. Santasiero again got the inning started with one out as he was hit by a pitch. Then, Rickert singled to right field and Zach Day walked to load the bases. Balcerzak hit a ball hard back up the middle that was somehow kept in the infield by a diving Zack Garrity, but a run scored on the play and the bases were still loaded. VanDuzer went to the bullpen, and gave the ball to Kannon VanDuzer. VanDuzer walked in a run, but got out of the inning when he induced a ground ball back to himself that he threw to home and Brayden Horton delivered a perfect throw to first for the 1-2-3 double play to keep the game at 4-1.
The Redskins would not go quietly. After Brayden Horton drew a one-out walk, Luke Horton doubled to make it runners at second and third with one out. David Northup popped up a pitch into shallow right field, forcing the Viking second baseman to catch it on the backpedal. Horton tagged from third and scored as the throw was up the first base line, but Riverside appealed the play, saying that Horton left early, and the appeal was granted as Riverside got out of a dangerous inning.
“That took the wind out of our sails,” VanDuzer said.
The Vikings capitalized on their momentum as the leadoff man reached on an error before Charles Azarsky singled. East Carolina-bound Jason Janesko doubled into right field to plate two. Later in the inning, Rickert hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to make it 7-1. Sayre went down in order in the bottom of the sixth, and they headed to the 7 th facing a six-run deficit.
New Redskin pitcher Zach Moore did yeoman’s work in the top of the seventh as he set the Vikings down in order. But, Viking reliver Zach Day did the same and the Sayre season came to a close at 20-2. Riverside became the first Pennsylvania team to defeat the Redskins, as their only other loss was to Waverly.