Devon Prep avoids Serra star Mark Black in 7th, dashes Eagles’ PIAA title hopes

By:
Friday, June 14, 2019 | 8:52 PM


UNIVERSITY PARK — Devon Prep challenged Serra Catholic star Mark Black three times Friday, but with two outs in the seventh and first base open, there was no reason to take that chance again.

His 14-homer reputation stretches all the way to Philadelphia.

Instead, Devon Prep intentionally walked Black and forced Alex Glumac into a game-ending comebacker to seal a 3-2 victory over Serra Catholic in the PIAA Class 2A championship at Penn State. Rarely have playoff opponents challenged the junior catcher but Black thought this might be his moment.

“I was hoping so,” he said. “I didn’t do much that game, so I was thinking (they might pitch to me). It just didn’t happen.”

Serra sophomore Jayden Mertz had hit a two-out double just before Black came to the plate, making Devon Prep’s strategy clear. Not often would a team trade a double for a single but Serra would’ve in this case.

“It would have been a tough decision with (Mertz) at first base as to what to do,” Devon Prep coach Mark Aquilante said. “I know (Black) is really good, but we attack people. That’s a philosophy we have. I told the kids last night we’re pitching to the kid unless it comes down to the end of the game and it makes sense not to.”

The state title was the second for Devon Prep (12-13), a member of the Philadelphia Catholic League. The team won the 2014 title as the District 1 champion but joined District 12 this season.

Serra Catholic (23-3) was chasing its second state title.

Black, who has a .522 batting average, went 0 for 2 with two walks, a stolen base and a run scored. But in the postseason, rarely has an opponent challenged him. In nine playoff games – WPIAL and PIAA – he drew 18 intentional walks.

Before Friday, he’d had only eight official postseason at-bats with six hits and four home runs. So, in the seventh inning, no one was surprised when Devon Prep pointed him to first base.

“I don’t think he would have missed the next time,” Dzurenda said. “That’s what I think.

“I wish (Mertz) would have stopped at first base,” he added with a laugh.

The seventh inning became imperative because Serra Catholic’s offense struggled against Devon Prep pitcher Andrew Czachor, who scattered three hits and one walk in 6 2/3 shutout relief innings. He struck out 10.

Devon Prep started sophomore Thomas Kent but he was pulled after retiring only one of Serra’s first five batters. Batting leadoff, Black drew a full-count walk, stole second and scored on Pat Brennan’s single.

Nico Eremic followed with an RBI single that scored Brennan to lead 2-0.

Czachor then entered in relief, stranded two runners and held Serra scoreless for the final 20 outs.

“I think if we could have gotten a couple of more in the first, it might have changed the complexion of the game,” Dzurenda said. “It just wasn’t in the cards.”

Serra Catholic had only five hits.

Devon Prep scored one run apiece in the first three innings. Each time the leadoff batter reached base and scored against Glumac, Serra’s starter. The junior allowed three runs on three hits and two walks.

Logan Exler entered after the first two batters reached base in the third. Exler, also a junior, pitched four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk.

“We came a lot farther than anybody thought we were going to,” said Dzurenda, whose Eagles last won the state title in 2011 after runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2009.

This time, he brought a very young lineup to Penn State, the silver lining he saw in Friday’s loss.

“There’s no shame in losing this game with three freshmen and four sophomores in the lineup,” Dzurenda said. “We battled. We played hard. Those kids battled until the very end. … Those 14-year-old ninth-graders are going to be big 18-year-olds in three years.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

click me