By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
SHAMOKIN -- Gradon Feldmann stepped to the plate for Danville in the sixth inning with the Area I championship hanging in the balance.
Feldmann sent a 1-0 pitch back through the box and into center field, scoring the go-ahead run as Danville came from behind to beat Berwick, 7-5, for the District 13 10-11-Division Area I title on Monday.
The five-hole hitter had struggled at the plate through five innings, going down on strikes in his first three at-bats. When he put his foot in the batter's box as the last hope for Danville with two outs, however, the pressure seemed to melt away as he calmly put the bat on the ball to give Danville the lead.
"That was a big hit, " Danville manager Michael Webb said. "(Feldmann is) one of the better hitters on the team. That's why he bats fifth."
Down a run when the inning began, Danville's Garret Stigerwalt drew a four-pitch walk to put the tying run on first. After Alex Talanca struck out K.J. Riley and walked Colton Sidler, Danville had the go-ahead run on first with the tying run at second, a single away from scoring. A fielder's choice at third brought up Josh Kopelcheck, who worked a five-pitch walk to get to Feldmann.
Ironically, Feldmann's job in his sixth-inning at-bat, according to Webb, was to take pitches. He had a look at a ball high and inside before taking a rip at the next pitch he saw for a 6-5 lead.
"It feels good (to get the game-winning hit) by coming through from having three strikeouts," Feldmann said. "It feels really nice."
Feldmann's ability to push aside what happened in previous innings and focus on the current at-bat was something the entire Danville team showed.
Danville held a 4-1 lead into the Berwick half of the fifth but the game was far from over. A pair of walks to lead off the inning brought the tying run to the plate. Jy James singled home a run to cut the lead to 4-2 and the tension continued to build. A groundout back to Brett McGaw on the mound brought up Sawyer Kemp, who had singled home a run in the third inning.
Kemp lined a ball up the middle that dipped fast, hit second base and caromed into left field. The Danville defense allowed one run to score on the play but the umpires convened to determine if Shane Levan had left second base before the ball hit the bag. The umpires ruled the ball hit Levan while he was on the base, resulting in the run being taken off the board but with Berwick having the bases loaded and one out.
A ball through the second baseman's legs to right field tied the game at four. Riley entered the game and struck out the final two hitters but not before Kemp scored on a wild pitch to give Berwick its first lead of the game, 5-4.
After Danville regained the lead thanks to Feldmann's clutch hitting, Riley retired Berwick's hitters in order for the win.
Danville grabbed an early one-run lead in the second on an RBI single from Zac Zerbe, and then extended its lead to three on back-to-back hits in the third from Drew Sassaman and Mavin James. After Berwick cut the lead to two in the bottom half of the third, James scored Kopelcheck on a groundout in the fifth to put Danville ahead, 4-1.