No. 12 New Castle takes advantage of big inning to upset No. 5 Freeport

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 | 10:18 PM

When Freeport baseball coach Ed Carr was scouting New Castle, the Red Hurricanes' hitting ability stood out.

What New Castle showcased on film translated to the field in the third inning Tuesday when it sent 11 batters to the plate, belted seven hits and scored five runs to build a comfortable cushion.

The No. 12-seeded Red Hurricanes had 15 hits on their way to an 8-3 win over No. 5 Freeport in the first round of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs at Seneca Valley.

“That team came to the plate with the ability to hit fastballs and off-speed pitches, and not many teams are comfortable hitting both types of pitches,” Carr said. “Sometimes they were doing it in pitcher's counts. We'd get ahead and they'd still slam a ball into the gap, hit the ball the other way or do whatever they needed to do to extend innings.”

With the score tied 1-1 in the top of the third, Bobby Salem smacked a one-out solo homer over the left-field fence off Freeport starter Brodey Cowan, and from there New Castle found a groove at the plate. Matt Senchak followed with a single and scored on an RBI single by Brayden Cartwright. Mark Torsello had a two-run triple later in the inning, and he was singled in by Nic Morell.

Sean Furlong came in to replace Cowan and surrendered two more hits before striking out Salem to strand the bases loaded.

“Sometimes hitting is contagious,” New Castle coach Mark Elisco said. “We've had games where we were shut down, but once everyone started hitting today our guys stayed in the zone. Our guys just kept moving the line. That's a good ball team over there, but we got the momentum, and we kind of slowed them down.”

New Castle (12-9) advanced to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive season and will face No. 4 Ringgold on Monday at a time and site to be announced.

The Red Hurricanes added two more runs in the fifth, but Freeport (12-4) had an opportunity to cut into the lead in the bottom half of the inning after loading the bases with one out. New Castle starter Nick DeRosa quelled the threat by getting a sacrifice fly by Furlong and a flyout to left field by Matt Charlton. DeRosa went six innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits. He struck out and walked five batters apiece.

“They outhit us and they had bigger innings than us,” Carr said. “We had guys on and chances to get a big inning, and we came away with one (run).”

Alex Ehalt doubled for Freeport in the second and came around to score on a Gavin Skradski RBI single.

The Yellowjackets, who were seeking their first playoff win since 2013, will graduate seven seniors — Ehalt, Cowan, Furlong, Charlton, Gavin Skradski, Ben Beale and Griffin Cohen.

“As we continue to build this program, I think we'll look back and say these seniors showed the way,” Carr said. “We took a big step from our first year making the playoffs, to almost winning the section this year.

“I'm going to miss those guys. I teared up after the game. I love those guys like family, and I'm proud of every single one of them from one to seven. I'll remember those guys the rest of my coaching career. I think they brought a lot of pride to the community this year.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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