BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – Kasey Shughart was more than willing to give himself up for his teammates. But when he couldn’t get it down, he came up with the ultimate way to give his team a lift.
On a warm Monday evening at Palmyra High School, Shughart’s line single to left field in the bottom of the seventh helped the Cougars walk off with a dramatic 3-2 triumph over Waynesboro, in the opening round of the PIAA District Three Class AAAAA baseball playoffs. After failing to sacrifice on two earlier pitches in his at-bat, Shughart, batting out of the nine hole, smashed a 3-2, no-out inside fastball off the glove of the Waynesboro third-baseman to score pinch runner Isaac Macklin with the winning run from second base.
With the score knotted at two, Joey Fisher led off the home half of the seventh inning by reaching on an error. Macklin ran for Fisher and got to second base on a delayed steal, thus setting the stage for Shughart’s heroics.
The win lifted Palmyra, the co-champions of the Mid-Penn Conference’s Keystone Division and the seventh-seed, to 18-4 and into a 4:30 p.m. Thursday date with second-seeded and rival Lower Dauphin, at LD’s Nye Elementary School field, in the quarterfinals of the district postseason. The winner of that contest will advance to the upcoming PIAA Class AAAAA playoffs.
Palmyra and Lower Dauphin have more than just a little history. The Cougars and Falcons shared the Mid-Penn Keystone crown after splitting a pair of close decisions this spring – Palmyra won 3-1 at home on April 5th and Lower Dauphin won 2-1 in Hummelstown on May 1st.
Waynesboro, the tenth-seed, concluded its campaign at 14-7.
“The situation called for a bunt,” said Palmyra head coach Neil Weber. “He (Shughart) gets two strikes, so I took the bunt off, and Kasey delivers. Our kids just kept battling.
“Kasey’s a sophomore,” added Weber. “He’s a starting wide receiver on the football team. He’s the starting point guard on the basketball team. And he’s the starting centerfielder for us. He made a great catch in centerfield for us today. He’s a great kid.”
“I got two strikes and I fought back to 3-2,” said Shughart. “I really messed up not getting down the bunt. It’s surreal. I’m just doing it for my teammates.
“I just saw my teammates running at me,” Shughart added. “It was the best feeling in the world.”
With just one hit to their credit, the Cougars entered the bottom of the sixth inning trailing 2-1. But Christian Kreiser led off the frame with a single, and Palmyra tied the score at two on Jacob Roe’s two-out single into the hole between third base and shortstop.
“Roe stuck in there and put together a good at-bat,” said Weber. “He got his barrel through the zone.
“In the sixth inning we gave up two runs, but we minimized the damage a little bit,” continued Weber. “You just talk to the kids about how every at-bat matters. We wanted to put good swings on the ball.”
“We never give up as a team,” said Shughart. “We always beleive. We’re a very confident team.”
Cougar starting pitcher Brian Coburn protected an early 1-0 lead for five innings, before Waynesboro touched him for a pair of runs in the top of the sixth. The rally began with an error and included a sacrifice, a walk, a fielder’s choice in which Palmyra didn’t get an out and Coby Rogers’ suicide bunt single that put the visitors ahead.
“They threw the kitchen sink at us,” said Weber of the top of the sixth inning. “They did a great job with the running game and strategic bunts. I thought we minimized the damage.
“I was really, really impressed with Waynesboro,” continued Weber. “They were balanced, up and down the lineup. Waynesboro is always buttoned-up and well-coached.”
“The sixth was just another good inning that Brian pitched,” said Shughart. “They played small ball. There was nothing we could do.”
Shughart’s heroics made Coburn the winning pitcher. He worked all seven innings, scattered three hits, whiffed five and issued a pair of free passes.
The win upped Coburn’s career scholastic record to 14-1.
“In this district baeball tournament, every at-bat, every inning is a little more intense than the regular season,” said Weber. “Brian was prepared for this moment. He kept us in it. He’s got a big heart. He can pitch really well.
“I don’t think we’re a team who can look past anyone,” Weber continued. “We’re taking every game as it comes. This was definitely Brian’s game the minute we learned we got into districts.”
“We’re very confident with Brian on the mound,” said Shughart. “He hits his spots. I’ve never seen him pitch better.”
The Cougars siezed an opportunity and jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Coburn and two-hole hitter Jake Wagner both walked, and both advanced on a wild pitch. Kreiser knocked home Coburn with an RBI-grounder.
resembled our season,” said Shughart. “We started off strong, fell down a little in the middle and finished strong.”
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|4:15 PM||W 11-0|
|4:15 PM||W 7-2|
|4:15 PM||W 3-1|
|7:00 PM||W 5-2|
|1:15 PM||L 2-13|
|4:15 PM||W 4-3|
|4:15 PM||W 15-5|
|4:15 PM||W 12-3|
|4:15 PM||W 13-3|
|12:00 PM||L 2-4|
|4:15 PM||W 10-0|
|4:15 PM||W 4-3|
|4:15 PM||W 9-7|
|4:00 PM||L 1-2|
|4:15 PM||W 6-2|
|4:15 PM||L 0-2|
|4:15 PM||W 8-0|
|4:15 PM||W 8-2|
|4:15 PM||W 4-0|
|12:00 PM||W 7-2|
|4:30 PM||W 3-2|
|4:30 PM||Lower Dauphin High School|
Final Keystone Division Standings
PIAA District Three
Class AAAAA Power Rankings