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Pittston Area Survives Late Scare, Wins Class 5A Title

May 27, 2019

MOOSIC — The last out truly is the toughest one to get. Pittston Area starter Cole Cherkas found that out Sunday in the District 2 Class 5A championship. But even though he gave up a three-run home run with two out in the top of the seventh that helped North Pocono bring the tying run to the plate, Cherkas was able to get the final out of a 5-4 win at PNC Field. The win give the Patriots the district championship, the program’s first since 2007. The Patriots will play in the state playoffs on June 3. “Obviously, it was rough trying to get that last out,” said Cherkas. “It is always about composure and I lost it a bit. That kid had a heck of a shot.” That kid was Stephen McNulty, who came off the bench with two runners on and roped a 3-2 pitch into the bullpen in left field that helped the Trojans turn a 5-1 deficit into a 5-4 thriller. On the next pitch after the home run, Cherkas got a foul out to first base, where Hunter Ralston made a nice running catch to end the game. “If (Cherkas) had pitches, we were going to let him go,” Pittston Area manager Paul Zaffutto said regarding whether or not he was thinking about lifting Cherkas after the home run. “His goal all year was to pitch to contact. If they get three or four hits in a row, you tip your cap to them. They have the guys to do it.” Cherkas was effective right from the start. He retired the leadoff hitter in all but one inning. That helped take the Trojans out of any type of running game and made them change their offensive philosophy when they did manage to get a runner on. “Any level of baseball, you get that first guy out and you work from there,” said North Pocono manager Brian Jardine. “It takes away a bit of the running game and any sort of small ball. He threw strikes and didn’t have any big innings. He was not overpowering, but had enough of a breaking ball that he could throw it for strikes.” The game was delayed approximately two hours because of a rain storm that came through the area about 25 minutes before the scheduled start time. Cherkas had already been in the bullpen warming up before the tarp was put on the field. Cherkas said the delay really didn’t have any sort of effect on him. “I just sat in the dugout, had something to eat and had a little bit of fun,” Cherkas said. “Then I just came back out and warmed up again.” Pittston Area took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Andrew Krawczyk walked, stole second and went to third when Joe Stella flied out to right. Krawczyk scored on Joe Cencetti’s double to center; it was one of four extra-base hits for the Patriots. North Pocono tied the game in the third when Peter Gutowski singled and scored on a Zach Walsh triple. The Patriots answered in the bottom of the third when Krawczyk tripled to start the inning and scored on Stella’s infield ground out. The Patriots opened up the game in the sixth with three consecutive doubles. Cherkas began it all with one to center. Riley Brody laced another to left to bring home a run, and Ralston ripped one to center. Krawczyk singled home pinch-runner Matt Johnson to put the Patriots ahead 5-1. “In the bottom of the sixth when it came to Riley, he asked me if I was going to have him bunt,” Zaffutto said. “I told him that we can’t win this without him. He told me he was coming up big. I saw the look in his eye, and it paid off.” In the seventh, Cherkas retired the first batter he faced before Jake Millan reached on an error. After the second out, Gutowski walked before Jardine called on McNulty to pinch-hit. “(McNulty) is a great kid — he played a little third base this year and had a couple of at-bats here and there,” Jardine said. “He has a little bit of power, so I thought maybe he would run into one. That is definitely what high school athletics is all about.” Cherkas only struck out two, but was helped by his defense. Krawczyk made two outstanding catches in center, and shortstop Joe Baiera made a great play in the hole in the seventh to throw a runner out at first for the second out of the inning. “I wasa just trying to get the ball over the plate and let the defense make plays,” Cherkas said. “That is what we have done all year.” Contact the writer: sbennett@citizensvoice.com; 570 821-2062; @CVSteveBennett on Twitter

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