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Sports Article
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Nolan Graber Pitches Blazers to ACBL Title
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Quakertown swept a pair of road doubleheaders on consecutive days to capture to the 2018 Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League championship. On Monday, Nolan Graber helped the team post a pair of victories over the Jersey Pilots in the title

Tom Nuneviller slides safely into home plate during the

first game of Quakertow'ns doubleheader sweapof

Allentown during the ACBL playoffs Sunday afternoon.

round at Drew University in Madison, N.J.

            "We embraced the challenge," Manager Chris Ray said Tuesday. "It made for a great story. It never seemed like everything we'd been working all season was going to click. But it finally did."

            Graber, an Upper Hanover resident, played an integral role in the Blazers' first championship since 2005. He earned the mound victory in the clincher, a 6-2 victory. Graber, who pitches at Ursinus College, tossed six shutout innings, scattering four hits and striking out six.

            Cameron Mathes pitched a scoreless ninth inning to save the decisive victory and clinch the seventh title for the franchise, after going 16-19 during the regular season and qualifying for the post-season as the fourth and final seed. Nathan Sides delivered two hits during the championship game. The senior shortstop from Alvernia University led Quakertown at the plate going 8-for-17 with three doubles and a triple during the post-season.

            "We just got hot at the right time, and everything seemed to come together during those two days," said Graber, a graduate of Upper Perkiomen High School. "It's pretty crazy."

            Ray called on Graber to work the clinching game after C.J. Kilgarriff started and won Monday's first game. According to the manager, Quakertown identified two starters for Sunday's semifinal round doubleheader against Allentown. He said whoever didn't throw against the Pilots would be called on to face the Pilots.

            "I'm glad I got the ball," Graber said. "We definitely had the momentum after winning the first game. My goal was to shut them down early, score a couple runs and hope (Jersey) would just fade away.

            Josh Kim and Colin Hartey each added two hits for the Blazers, who scored one in the second inning and three times in the third to take a commanding 4-0 lead. Justin Horn and Ben Werkheiser each scored two runs.

            Meanwhile, Graber relied mostly on his fastball and curveball to dominate the Pilots. According to Ray, the pitcher pounded the strike zone, throwing more pitches over the plate as the lead increased.

            "Nolan was calm and relaxed," the manager said. "He threw strike after strike. He took our idea of not allowing any walks to another level. He knew what was at stake. He probably could have pitched deeper into the game. He was unbelievable"

            In Monday's early game, Quakertown rallied for three runs in the top of the sixth inning to snap a tie and post a 7-2 victory. Sides and Justin Horn each finished with three hits to pace a 14-hit attack. Matt Hand and Chance DiFebbo, a sophomore from Delaware, each drove in two runs, while Andrew Cossetti smacked his first home run of the season.

            On Sunday, the Blazers swept a road doubleheader over the Allentown, the No. 1 seed and three-time defending league champion, to advance to the title round. In the first game, Jimmy Kingsbury pitched them to a 5-2 victory. The starter from Villanova University allowed one run over seven innings. C.J. Kilgarriff recorded the final four outs to post the save.

            Sides drove in three runs and delivered two doubles for Quakertown, which finished with eight hits. Cossetti, a catcher from St. Joseph's University, added two hits and an RBI. Hand and Difebbo each scored twice.  Sides' two-run double in the first inning staked the team to an early lead. Cossetti's RBI single in the third made it 3-1.

            In the nightcap, the Blazers rallied from a 4-0 deficit to capture the semifinal playoff round at ECTB Stadium in Allentown. Jeff Manto's two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning put them ahead for good. Quinn McKenna delivered a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Werkheiser added two hits and scored twice.

            J.J. Spherley, from Bloomsburg University, earned the mound win despite allowing four runs in the initial three innings. He tossed seven innings, permitting 10 hits and two walks while registering four strikeouts. Matt Svanson, from Lehigh, pitched two scoreless innings to notch the save.






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