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Panthers Lose Heartbreaker
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2019-05-29

Coach Baker misses 500th win in state championship final.

 

            Three outs away from Perkiomen School first state title in 19 years, the thrill of accomplishment seemed palpable. The goal David Smith and Chris Pow pursued for

Tony Holden scores on a wild pitch for Perkiomen

School in a victory over Friends' Central on Friday.

four years seemed well within their grasp.

            "Everyone could taste it," head coach Ken Baker said.

            However, Malvern Prep's Chris Newell and Josh Paulina prevented the Panthers from capturing their first Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association championship since 2000. Newell and Paulina rallied the Friars to a 5-4 victory in the tourney's championship game on Saturday, May 25 at Upper Perkiomen High School.

            Newell delivered a solo home run in the seventh inning off Zach Smith to erase a 4-3 deficit and force extra innings. Paulina allowed just one hit over five shutout innings to post the mound victory. The sophomore utilized a dominant curve ball to record 13 strikeouts.

            Cam Conley's single to left in the bottom of the ninth off David Smith clinched Malvern Prep's third straight state title and denied Baker his 500th career coaching victory.

            "This stinks," said David Smith, a four-year starter from Collegeville. "We overcame some adversity to get this far, but couldn't accomplish our ultimate goal. That's life."
Pow finished with a team-high three hits for the Perkiomen School. Tony Holden posted two hits and scored two runs. Zach Smith delivered a two-run single in the third inning.

            The No. 4 seeded Panthers (18-6), who posted shutout victories over Friends' Central on Friday (8-0) and Penn Charter earlier Saturday (10-0), seemed poised to capture the title after Holden scored an unearned run in the top of the fourth inning to put them ahead 4-3.

            However Zach Smith, a junior from East Greenville surrendered the game-tying run bottom of the seventh. Newell, a left handed hitter who has committed to the University of Virginia, drove a changeup over the right-field fence.

            "We knew Malvern Prep was going to compete," said Smith, who absorbed the loss despite allowing just one earned run over six innings of relief. "I just had to trust in my guys that they were going to come back."

            Baker said his pitcher wasn't going to intentionally walk Newell -- who hit two homers in his team's 5-1 semifinal victory over Haverford School earlier in the day -- leading off the inning. "We wanted to challenge him," the coach said. "Zach just made a mistake."

            The No. 3 seeded Friars (32-7) clinched their third consecutive state title in the bottom of the ninth after Jarod Wade reached on a leadoff infield hit and took second on a throwing error. Following an intentional walk to Newell, Perkiomen School's defense foiled a sacrifice attempt. But Conley followed with the game-winning hit.

            Baker lauded the performance of David Smith, who came on in the third inning after the No. 3 seeded Friars (32-7) scored three runs in three hits off T.J. Khela to force a 3-3 tie. The pitcher, who suffered a gash above his left eye after getting hit with a throw in a semifinal game Saturday, tossed three consecutive shutout innings.

            "Zach has done that for us before," the coach said. "He throws strikes. Zach knows how to handle himself."

            Paulina dominated the Panthers hitters down the stretch with an effective curveball. He utilized the pitch to fan 11 of the first 12 hitters he faced, including a stretch of seven straight in the seventh eighth and ninth. David Smith described it as the best off-speed pitch he's ever faced.
"I was choking up, doing whatever I could to put it in play," said the Collegeville native, who grounded out twice and flied out against Paulina. "He threw it during any count.

            Earlier Saturday, Perkiomen School needed only six innings to defeat Penn Charter and advance to the title game. David Smith and Owen Taylor each finished with two hits. 
Manny Azaria delivered an RBI during a four-run rally in the first inning. He and Erick Padilla completed a double steal to cap the rally. Carlos Torrez went the distance on the mound for the Panthers after pitching out of a first-inning jam. 

            On Friday, On Friday, David Smith led the No. 4 seeded Panthers to a quarterfinal round victory over Friends' Central School at Baker Field. On the mound in an 8-0 victory, he tossed a four-hit shutout while registering four strikeouts.

            At the plate, Smith paced a 12 hit barrage with two hits and four RBI. His two-run homer in the bottom of the first staked Perkiomen School to an early 2-0 lead.

            Owen Taylor delivered two hits and two RBI. Manny Azaria and Holden registered two hits and Pow scored twice for the Panthers, who added an unearned run in the second inning. Taylor's line RBI single to center highlighted a two-run rally in the fourth. Smith and Holden each delivered an RBI hit on the sixth inning.

            A stellar defensive play by Holden in right field in the fourth inning erased an infield error. His running one-handed catch, on a line drive to the gap, and throw to first base doubled off a runner who reached on Zach Smith's fielding miscue. 

            "We should really be proud of ourselves," Zach Smith said. "We gave everything we had the last few days."


 

 

 

 

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