One memorable Day: Riverside pitcher sends Vikes to semis

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Jun. 11—FREDERICKSBURG — Sean Hughes kept telling his players that their break was going to come.

He's still not sure it ever did.

Riverside's head baseball coach just knows that sometimes, even when the breaks don't come, you have to make what you get work. On a sunny Thursday afternoon in the PIAA Class 2A baseball quarterfinals, Zach Day made sure it did.

The big right-hander went the distance, striking out 10 and dominating District 5 champion McConnellsburg to make one seventh-inning run stand up in a 1-0 Vikings win at Wenger Field.

The Vikings (23-0) kept their unbeaten season alive and advanced to the state semifinals. They'll face District 11 champ Schuylkill Haven, which beat Camp Hill, 10-2, on Thursday.

"They battled throughout seven innings and chipped away," Hughes said, his mind still spinning after a brisk game and the suddenness of the run. "I don't even know what happened in the seventh inning for us to get the run. It was just an unbelievable game to be a part of. That's playoff baseball, 1-0 baseball."

Day knew pretty early on he only needed that one run.

He had a rocky first inning, for sure. Day allowed two hits, then walked two more, and he might not have survived it unscathed had catcher Jason Janesko not thrown out leadoff man Zander Sipes trying to steal second.

But when Day got Landon Ramsey to pop out to first baseman R.J. Santarsiero on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning, he took a deep exhale and had a feeling he had survived the worst.

"That," he said, "got me my groove going."

That much was obvious. McConnellsburg got just one batter to second the rest of the way, and only two soft singles by Andrew Mellott left the infield.

Still, through six innings, McConnellsburg pitcher Walker Funk and his sharp-breaking curveball matched zeroes with Day.

"It was real tough, and this year offense has come real easy to us," Vikings shortstop Michael Rickert said. "But we knew we were going to break through, and we had confidence in Zach throwing."

They did break through. It just took a while longer than they're used to.

Funk breezed through the first six innings on just 56 pitches, but he also seemed to have good fortune on his side.

Riverside had leadoff base runners in second, third, fourth and fifth innings, and there were times in those innings when the Vikings hit the lanky right-hander hard.

Yet, those great starts twice were dashed by hard line drives directly at defenders. Both, off the bat of Janesko in the third and Day in the fourth, were turned into double plays on which the liners were hit so hard, base runners had no real shot to get off their leads and to the bag.

Funk allowed two hits in the second, but a caught stealing meant Riverside never got a runner into scoring position. And in the fifth, Tyler Balcerzak singled and was sacrificed to second, but Funk worked out of that mess, too.

He couldn't, however, escape the seventh.

Rickert beat out an infield hit to give the Vikings their fifth leadoff baserunner, and Day slammed a single to left to put runners on first and second with nobody out.

After Funk fielded a comebacker and held the runners, Thomas Day hit a sharp grounder to third that was bobbled for an instant, just long enough for Rickert to spring home and under catcher Dylan Fowler's tag for the first, and only, run of the game.

"That gave me the most confidence, probably, in the whole game," Zach Day said. "And, it worked. I just went out there and threw strikes, threw hard."

That kind of performance was needed this time, but Hughes knew his team largely had been able to count on its offense to this point.

A game like this, he said, could be what his team needs moving forward.

"You almost wish you could play every game 1-0, as long as you come out winning," Hughes said. "It's a battle. You have to be patient, stay tough, stay up on each other, and proceed to victory."

Riverside 1, McConnellsburg 0

Riverside 000 000 1 — 1

McConnellsburg 000 000 0 — 0

WP: Zach Day 7IP, 4H, 0R, 0ER, 3BB, 10SO

LP: Walker Funk 7IP, 6H, 1R, 1ER, 0BB, 4SO

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