ALMEDIA — Blaise Zeiders does a variety of things for the Selinsgrove baseball team.
No one who was there will forget his mad dash around the bases for an inside-the-park homer in Tuesday’s PIAA Class 4A semifinal win over Hamburg.
However, an underrated role for Zeiders is that of the Ryan-whisperer.
As the Seals’ run has gotten deeper into the postseason, Selinsgrove has used freshman Ryan Reich more and more on the mound. Zeiders’ job from third base is to keep Reich loose.
“Me and Blaise have like a older-younger brother relationship. It’s really nice to have him out there,” Reich said. “It boosts my confidence and keeps me smiling.”
Reich certainly needed that boost in the bottom of the seventh inning as the freshman needed to retire the biggest power threat in the Hamburg lineup with the bases loaded and two outs.
Coach Brent Beiler made a trip to the mound to talk to his freshman.
“I said ‘Hey, it’s not a big deal. We’re going to play the outfield deep. This guy is a big bat, throw a first-pitch strike. We talked about a play we could put on, but you can get him yourself,’” Beiler said. “He did.”
“When he had two outs, I looked at him and said, ‘“Let’s go!,”’ Zeiders said. “And he said, ‘Let’s go!” I knew from that point, it was on.”
However, not before Reich put a scare into himself and into his coach for one final time.
Owen Zimmerman — who led the Hawks with two homers this season, both in the playoffs — quickly fell behind 1-2 in the count, before Reich’s last pitch of the game was a fastball that might have caught too much of the plate.
“I thought it was gone for a moment; I was really upset,” Reich said.
“Yes it did, yes it did,” Beiler said with a laugh when asked his heart jumped into his throat.
Left fielder Ryan Aument camped under the fly ball about five feet short of the left-field fence sending the Seals into the school’s first state championship baseball game, and allowing Zeiders to do what he promised Reich he’d do when the freshman entered the game.
I told him, “Two innings, then we get to pitch in the state championship! Six outs — and you’d better be waiting for me after that sixth out for hug. You know (catcher) Wyatt’s (Metzger) probably not going to come out. I’ll come out and give you a hug. I can’t wait!”
It was another outstanding performance in relief for Reich, who now has a win in the district title game and two saves in the state tournament. It’s a role he relishes.
“There were some nerves, but I was confident I could get them out,” Reich said. “Once your used to (pressure situations), you can just go out and fire and be more confident.”
It’s that kind of attitude that got Reich his relief role in the first place for senior starters Logan Hile and Zeiders.
“He’s been on the big stage for us. He got the win in the district championship game, he got five straight outs in the last game (the quarterfinal win over Springfield Township) for the saves and now the save in this one,” Beiler said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. He’s got a subtle chip on his shoulder that he knows he’s going to get the job done. And he’s proven to be the right guy for job.”
Reich hopes to have the chance to close out one more win this season when the Seals (19-5) face WPIAL-champion Beaver (17-8) at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on the campus of Penn State University.