By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
NORTHUMBERLAND -- As if it wasn't enough to endure the struggles of Thursday's game, Logan Hall ran a cool-down lap around Pineknotter Park afterwards, alone with his thoughts to relive it all again.
Sunbury/Northumberland allowed a dozen Berwick batters to reach base without hitting their way on -- 10 of them during Hall's five-plus innings on the mound, four of whom scored.
That hospitality, combined with Clay DeNoia's complete game, was enough for Berwick to knock off the Susquehanna Valley League playoffs' top seed, 5-4, in the winners' bracket final.
Sunbury/Norry navigated some turbulence in Wednesday's 10-9 win over Selinsgrove, but there was just too much too often yesterday. In all, there were five hit batsmen, four walks and three errors. Usher that many batters to first base and the opposition needs only a few hits.
"We've given up seven hits the last two days (three to Selinsgrove, four to Berwick). It's the extra plays, the extra pitches, that's putting us in a hole," said Sunbury/Norry manager Travis Fisher. "The things we've done (well) all year just hasn't been the case for us. We weren't walking guys; we weren't hitting batters; we were making the plays. But those things have been killing us of late."
Sunbury/Norry (15-4) dropped into the elimination bracket and will host a game Sunday against a team to be determined. A win would set up a rematch at Berwick (16-3) on Monday, with Sunbury/Norry having to beat the No. 3 seed twice to advance to the Region 5 Tournament.
"A couple days off isn't going to hurt us," said Fisher.
Hall, who hadn't pitched in a month, got the start Thursday. He'd been on the shelf with arm trouble and went through a two-week stretch in which he couldn't play at all and then was limited to a pinch-hitting role.
He grazed Berwick leadoff man Will Morales with the game's first pitch and, after a sacrifice bunt, nicked Thomas Lashock. Still, Hall got the groundout he needed to get out of the inning unscathed, but it was thrown high of first base, allowing a run to score.
Two more hit batsmen (both on breaking balls) and a walk loaded the bases with one out in the second, but Hall worked free with a liner to shortstop and an infield pop.
"We could have made (the freebies) hurt more," said Berwick manager Joe Papada. "Like in the second inning, bases loaded and we don't have a hit, and we don't score a run. Stuff like that we have to take more advantage of. But they're a good team."
Hall pitched a 1-2-3 third, but walking off the mound in the middle of the third wasn't as empowering as a 3-1 lead with three no-hit innings should be.
"I felt like I was dodging bullets," he said.
Sunbury/Norry got to DeNoia for three runs on five hits in the second and third innings. Brandon Zoch had a clutch two-out, two-strike single to break a 1-all tie in the second, and Colby Lahr's infield hit in the third made it 3-1. Also in those innings, Andrew Eyster and Tyler Leib each blasted shots to deep left-center that Will Morales ran down near the fence. Both drives would have been no-doubt homers pre-wood bats.
"I thought we were hitting the ball extremely well -- even the balls that were outs," said Fisher. "But you've got to tip your cap to (DeNoia); he pitched his butt off."
DeNoia threw 64 of his 90 pitches for strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 22 of 29 batters. He retired nine of 10, starting with seven in a row, from the third through fifth innings.
Berwick's first hit didn't come until the fourth inning, when nine-hole hitter Brandon Fenstermacher doubled on an 0-2 pitch after failing to get down a bunt. It didn't much matter that Hall struck out the side, though, because the double followed an infield error and a walk. A two-out single tied the score at 3.
"I told him before the game there was nobody I wanted to give the ball more than him," Fisher said of Hall. "He gives his all."
Fisher had his team take extra infield practice Thursday, but a third infield error and a single in the sixth preceded Thomas Lashock's two-run double to deep left. Berwick stranded 10 runners in the game, seven in scoring position.
Sunbury/Norry cashed in a Berwick error for a run in the bottom of the sixth, but stranded the tying run at third base. DeNoia, who struck out four without a walk, pitched around a hit batsman in the seventh to finish it.
"We had the offense, we just didn't back it up," said Hall. "But I still think we'll make some noise."