---- — By Marion Valanoski
For The Daily Item
CATAWISSA -- Matt Perry knew very little about the Southern Columbia baseball team heading into Tuesday's District 4 Class A baseball playoff opener. The Mansfield head coach was concerned after watching the host team during batting practice about the small field and the shifting wind currents.
How prophetic were his thoughts.
Mason Peters belted the first pitch he saw over the center field fence to highlight a five-run outburst in the opening inning while winning pitcher Matt Klock hurled a complete game, striking out five as Southern came away with an impressive 8-3 triumph earning the Tigers a date with third-seeded East Juniata.
"This was a small field and I could see that the ball was really carrying," Perry said. "That's usually a bad combination for somebody and it turned out to be us."
Peters solo shot jump-started the Tigers' (16-5) offense and the rest of the lineup took advantage of the momentum-giving shot in the arm as Taylor Young followed by working a walk from losing hurler Taylor Hillson and Garrett Sosnoski came through with a single over third putting runners at the corners before Tyler Behrent rocketed a three-run homer to left center that increased the home team's lead on the scoreboard to 4-0.
Blake Marks continued the hitting spree with a double, and after a groundout, Nate Hunter drew a walk before Randy Zigarski capped the uprising with an RBI groundout to deep shortstop.
"The five runs in the first were really huge," Southern head coach Randy Young said. "(Mason) Peters hitting the first pitch for a home run gave us momentum right from the start and our players really put the bat on the ball in that inning."
Mansfield came right back with a three-spot of its own to make the contest interesting in the second. Max Colsgrove initiated the comeback with a single and went to second on a wild pitch while advancing to third on a groundout. Jarred Burd collected an RBI on a groundout to third before back-to-back singles from Dylan Whitmyer and Brady Andrews loaded the bases.
Hillson drove in the Tigers second run after being hit by a pitch and Sam Rotella added an RBI on a single to left, however, Behrent helped snuff out the rally when on the play he threw out Whitmyer to end the inning.
Southern scratched out a run in the bottom of the second when Young and Garrett Sosnoski singled with one out and Blake Marks' grounder to second was misplayed allowing one run to cross the plate.
The Tigers lead grew to 8-3 in the third when Hunter reached on an error and Zigarski legged out a triple to center. Hillson put down the next two batters before Young singled to left for the game's final run.
"Southern really hit the ball well and none of their hitters got cheated at the plate," Perry said. "They are very aggressive offensively and have good batters up and down the lineup."
Klock, after his shaky second, settled down the rest of the way and allowed just a meaningless single in the fifth while finishing the game with five strikeouts. His defense also turned in a double play in the fourth and did not commit an error.
"Klock pitched a very effective game and nothing was really hit hard off him," Young said. "He gave us a complete game and we have the rest of the pitching staff ready for our game against East Juniata."
Sosnoski led the winners with three singles while Peters and Behrent each contributed a home run. Zigarski chipped in with a triple and Marks added a double.
Hillson, Rotella, Colsgrove, Whitmyer and Andrews each had a single for the losing Tigers, who ended their season with an 11-8 record.