UNIVERSITY PARK — Central senior Ty Helsel led off the fifth inning of Friday’s PIAA Class 3A baseball championship by scorching a line drive that tore Lancaster Catholic third baseman Dylan Banzhof’s glove in half.
That play defined the Scarlet Dragons’ 13-2, five-inning victory over the Crusaders in which Central finished with 15 hits and batted around twice.
“That’s one of the harder balls I have ever hit,” Helsel said. “It went right through his mitt. We were crushing the ball today. It was awesome.”
Helsel was among six seniors starting Friday’s game that were driven to win a state championship after losing in the PIAA semifinals last year.
If that wasn’t enough motivation to cap a 27-0 campaign, the Scarlet Dragons had a message waiting for them when they arrived at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
“We had our hearts broken last year, and we were going to do anything we had to do to get back here,” Central coach A.J. Hoenstine said. “They came to play today. I sensed some nerves on the way up here, but when we went in to hit, we saw someone wrote 26-1 on the bulletin board. There’s a saying, ‘don’t poke the bear,’ and that got them going a little bit.”
Central scored in the top of the first inning when Hunter Smith was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, but Lancaster Catholic starting pitcher Noah Zimmerman escaped further trouble with a strikeout and by inducing a double-play grounder.
Zimmerman came into the game with 102 strikeouts in 65 innings this season and an ERA at 0.96, but things unraveled quickly for him in the second inning.
Parker Gregg beat out an infield single with one out, and Dalton Metzger was able to make contact with a pitch out of the strike zone on a hit-and-run moments later. Metzger was retired, but Gregg made it to second base in what Hoenstine believed was an important play as Central went on to score six runs in the inning.
“I thought a real key at bat was Dalton Metzger’s in the second inning when he protected Parker on the steal of second base and gave himself up,” Hoenstine said. “That was with our big hitters coming up, and we ended up on second base five times in a row. Him giving himself up instead of striking out and that being a double play was huge. He gives himself up, and it turns into a six-spot. Little things like that are what people don’t see, but we take a lot of pride in.”
Kling came up next with Gregg on second, first base open and two outs. Many times this season, the LSU signee has been walked in that situation, but Zimmerman went after him. Kling doubled down the line to bring home Gregg and start a big inning.
“I’m glad they pitched to me,” Kling said. “I think he hit his spot, too. He was trying to go low and in with a changeup, and I got my hands through and got it past the third baseman. It was a good feeling to get that run in and get us going.”
Jeff Hoenstine followed with one of hits team-high three hits, Devon Boyles doubled, Smith singled, Griff Snowberger doubled and Helsel singled before Zimmerman got out of the inning.
The Lancaster Catholic star, who pitched most of a 3-0 shutout over Neumann-Goretti in the PIAA semifinals on Monday, finished the game having allowed 12 earned runs and 13 hits.
“Baseball is a game where sometimes things go your way and sometimes, they don’t,” Lancaster Catholic coach Steve Remley said. “It definitely went their way today. They put the ball in play and were able to execute. It stings.”
Central added six more runs in the top of the fourth inning with seven singles, including a two-run hit by Metzger.
“This was the dream from the beginning,” Kling said. “We always have three goals in a year. We want to win the Curve Classic, win districts and win the state championship. Luckily, we were able to do all three and go undefeated this year. We all did our jobs, and it’s a great feeling that we won this.”
The Scarlet Dragons were playing in the state championship game for the fifth time and improved to 2-3 with their other championship coming in 2017 when they finished 24-3.
“To be maybe the best team in Central history feels good,” Helsel said. “Having the best record ever and finishing with a state title, it’s great. It’s tough to make history at Central. There’s a lot of good teams that have come through here.”
One out from a state championship, an emotional Boyles had trouble finding the strike zone and walked in a pair of runs for Lancaster Catholic. Helsel came on in relief and got Levi Hackman to ground out and end the game.
“I have been close with these guys forever,” Boyles said. “Winning this with them means a whole lot. I’m excited we’ll have this memory the rest of our lives.”
With the victory, starters Kling, Boyles, Helsel, Jonah Snowberger, Josh Biesinger and Gregg all finished their high school careers as state champions.
“This has been a phenomenal run since we have been little,” Biesinger said. “It’s been great growing up with these guys and being able to play every sport with them. We all play for each other, and we have each other’s backs at all times.”
CENTRAL (13): Kling cf 221, Hoenstine ss 423, Boyles p-1b 202, Fisher cr 020, Smith c 302, Dionis cr 010, G. Snowberger 3b 422, Helsel 1b-p 401, Biesinger rf 000, J. Snowberger dh 411, Gregg lf 422, Metzger 2b 211. Totals — 29-13-15.
LANCASTER CATHOLIC (2): N. Wingenroth cf 300, Trott 2b 211, B. Wingenroth ss 200, Danielson 1b 100, Cranford c 201, Hackman 3b-p 301, VanScoten lf 200, Zimmerman p 000, Banzhof dh-3b 200, Pisano rf 010. Totals — 17-2-3.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Central 160 60X X — 13 15 0
Lancaster Catholic 000 02X X — 2 3 1
E–Trott. LOB–Central 7, Lancaster Catholic 7. DP–Lancaster Catholic 1. 2B–Kling, Boyles, G. Snowberger, Cranford. 3B–Trott. HBP–Boyles 2, Smith. SB–Hoenstine, J. Snowberger, Gregg, Metzger, VanScoten, Pisano. RBI–Smith 3, Metzger 2, Boyles 2, Hoenstine 2, Kling, G. Snowberger, Gregg, Danielson, Cranford.
Central: Boyles (W)–4 2/3IP, 3H, 3K, 7BB, 2R, 2ER, 84 pitches. Helsel–1/3IP, 0H, 0K, 0BB, 0R, 0ER, 2 pitches.
Lancaster Catholic: Zimmerman (L)–3 2/3IP, 13H, 3K, 3BB, 3HBP, 12R, 12ER, 101 pitches. Hackman–1 1/3IP, 2H, 0K, 0BB, 1R, 1ER, 19 pitches.
Umpires: Bryce Brewer (plate); Albert Jones (1B); Charles Carnes (2B); Mark Marinucci (3B).
Records: Central (27-0); Lancaster Catholic (23-3).
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