Turnaround lands Upper Moreland in state final

Upper Moreland's Tommy Robinson fired a two-hitter in the state semifinal, retiring the last 12 batters. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
Upper Moreland's Tommy Robinson fired a two-hitter in the state semifinal, retiring the last 12 batters. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
Posted: June 14, 2013

It's funny how the tide can turn in high school baseball.

Two weeks after being easily handled by Holy Ghost Prep in the District 1 Class AAA final, Upper Moreland is on the verge of claiming the program's first state championship.

"That was probably the best thing for us," senior leftfielder Robert Knox said. "It kept us hungry. After losing that game, we had nothing to fall back on. This is our second chance."

Knox and the Golden Bears will try for Class AAA gold against defending titlist West York, of District 3, in the final at 1 p.m. Friday at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

"You begin the season thinking there's a slight chance of this happening, but I don't know if you really believe it's possible," Knox said. "It's pretty wild."

After bowing to Holy Ghost, 6-0, Upper Moreland (21-4) rebounded with victories over District 3's Greencastle-Antrim (4-3 score), District 9's Punxsutawney (4-3), and District 7's Keystone Oaks (3-1).

"Our pitching has been great all year, and we get timely hits," Knox said. "We also run the bases well. When teams mess up on defense, we're going to take the extra base."

In Tuesday's semifinal win over error-prone Keystone Oaks, junior righthander Tommy Robinson fired a two-hitter. He closed by retiring 12 consecutive batters.

Golden Bears coach Ernie Rehr sent Robinson to the hill after using the team's top two hurlers, Charlie Hooker (5-1) and Eddie Decker (9-0), in Saturday's 10-inning triumph over Punxsutawney.

"That was a great effort by Tommy," Knox said. "The last time he had pitched was in a nonleague game against Hatboro-Horsham in early May. He came through for us."

West York (20-8) beat Bonner-Prendergast and Holy Ghost en route to the final.

"We're expecting a seasoned group," Rehr said.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Knox has been a fixture in the outfield the last three seasons. A No. 2-hole batter, he is also a righthanded reliever.

In a two-run first inning against Keystone Oaks, Knox delivered a one-out, infield single and advanced to second base on an errant throw. After tagging up and taking third on Hooker's fly out, he scored when Pat Driscoll reached first on an error.

In addition to Knox, the Golden Bears have been spurred on offense by centerfielder and leadoff man Matt Kohn; Hooker, also a first baseman; catcher Driscoll; and utility man Colton Hooker. Kohn missed the early part of the season because of a broken wrist suffered in basketball.

Knox, who starred in football as a running back and safety, will play baseball at West Chester.

"My first visit there was actually for football," he said. "But I was pretty sure all along that I was going to play baseball."

Bidding for No. 2. North Penn (16-10) will vie for its second Class AAAA crown when it faces District 3's Lower Dauphin (22-5-1) at 6 p.m. Friday at Penn State.

In 2009, under former coach Bob McCreary, the Knights went 20-6 and took top honors with a 3-1 win over District 11's Parkland in Altoona.

With ace Brian Maher firing a four-hitter, Kevin Manero's squad quieted Pennridge, 3-0, in a semifinal Tuesday at Spring-Ford. Third baseman Brad Bertucci's RBI single and catcher Eddie Posavec's two-run triple keyed a three-run third inning.

Lower Dauphin, District 3's champ, advanced with a 1-0, 10-inning win over District 7's North Allegheny. The difference was Jake Schellenberger's homer to left field.

Like Upper Moreland, North Penn is a surprise finalist. The Knights placed fourth in districts after arriving as a No. 12 seed.

Along with Bertucci and Posavec, a Binghamton recruit, catalysts at the plate have included rightfielder Brady West, first baseman Jared Melone, and shortstop Chris Kersey.

Against Lower Dauphin, senior righthander Dylan Borawski (2-2, 2.22 ERA) will get the start. In last Thursday's 11-1 win over Coatesville, he scattered three singles and walked only one in six innings.

"He threw one heck of a game vs. Coatesville," Manero said. "We feel real good about him pitching in the championship game."

Contact Rick O'Brien at robrien@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ozoneinq. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.inquirer.com/ozone

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