WPIAL products help Team Pennsylvania top Maryland in Big 26 Baseball Classic series

Monday, July 26, 2021 | 12:57 PM

With four catchers on the Team Pennsylvania roster for its Big 26 Classic series with Maryland last Friday and Saturday, each one knew that playing time was a valuable commodity.

Knoch rising senior Eli Sutton understood the sharing of playing time and said it was extra special to get the call when it was his turn to take the field.

Sutton, along with the only other WPIAL representative, Pine-Richland rising senior first baseman Tyler Armstrong, helped Team PA clinch a 2-1 series victory in Harrisburg.

“It was an all-around great experience,” said Sutton, who started the second game of the series Saturday, a 13-0 Team PA victory, and played several innings in the other two games.

“I had a ton of fun with my teammates, and I got to make a lot of new friends with some great players. I could go on and on about all the stories we shared, baseball and otherwise. It was a great weekend to play baseball with great weather. It was all that I hoped it would be, and it is something I will never forget.”

Team PA scored a 10-6 victory over Maryland in Game 1 on Friday. Sutton’s club teammate with Florida Travel Baseball Mid-Atlantic 17U, Red Land’s Kaden Peifer, blasted a three-run homer in the first inning as the team broke out the bats in all three games.

Peifer’s bat and pitching helped him earn team MVP honors.

The shutout win in Game 2 clinched the series for Team PA, which now leads the all-time series 5-3. Maryland rallied for a 10th-inning walk-off victory in Game 3 on Saturday to avoid the sweep.

“It was a really cool experience being a part of this team and helping keep the trophy with Pennsylvania,” said Armstrong, who earned Section 1-6A honorable mention honors for the Rams as in infielder in 2021.

Armstrong, a Mt. St. Mary’s (Md.) verbal commit, is a member of U.S. Elite’s 17U National team.

“I am grateful for coach (Rick) Harrison and the rest of the Pennsylvania Big 26 staff,” Armstrong said.

“Without them, this weekend doesn’t happen. They were really good to all of us. I am also thankful for my summer and high school coaches for pushing me towards trying out for the team.”

Sutton said he expected to see the offensive output from Team PA, which scored 31 runs in the three games.

“We definitely showed that we came to hit,” he said. “As a whole, everyone swung it well.”

Sutton was 1 for 3 overall in the three games and drew a couple of walks. He scored two runs.

Armstrong, who played first base in Game 1 and started Game 2 at first base and Game 3 as the designated hitter, went 1 for 5 overall, drew two walks and scored twice.

“For us to be able to go out and show what western Pennsylvania and the WPIAL can do was awesome,” Sutton said.

Last year’s series was canceled in the wake of the covid pandemic.

Freeport’s Jarrett Heilman and South Fayette’s Ryan McGuire represented the WPIAL in 2019 and helped Team PA to a 3-0 series sweep.

In addition to the three games, each player from Pennsylvania and Maryland got the opportunity to shine in front of scouts at a combine Friday afternoon. They also were able to meet and bond with special needs children, teens and young adults through the Big 26 Buddy Program.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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