River Hill thrown for a loss

Bechta's play preserves Centennial's 4-3 victory

Class 3A East baseball

High Schools

May 20, 2004|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Centennial's 4-3 Class 3A East regional semifinal victory over River Hill was filled with climactic plays.

None was bigger than the final play.

Centennial left-fielder Alex Bechta threw out a River Hill pinch runner trying to go from first to third on Mike Clements' line-drive single.

The win moves the fifth-ranked Eagles (18-4) to the regional final against Long Reach tomorrow.

"It was a perfect throw to my glove," said freshman third baseman Austin Harclerode. "The runner slid headfirst and I tagged him on his hands. I knew Alex would come through. He had the ball when the runner was only halfway to third."

Bechta redeemed himself for his error to start the final inning. He dropped a pop fly after a long run.

"The grass slowed the ball down, and I just picked it up with my bare hand and threw it as hard as I could," said Bechta of his game-winning throw.

Eagles relief pitcher Scott Swinson also delivered a crucial performance in that inning by striking out one of the county's top hitters, David Walters, who had doubled off Swinson earlier in the game.

"I was just thinking I needed to keep him off balance," Swinson said. "He swung at a curve on a 1-2 count."

That was the first out of the seventh inning. Dan Konapelsky, who was 2-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs, then grounded to first baseman Jonathan Dupski, who threw to shortstop Danny Townsend for the force out setting up the dramatic ending.

Centennial coach Denis Ahearn said he had no trouble entrusting the season to a sophomore pitcher.

"There are few kids as competitive as Swinson," he said.

River Hill (11-11) scored two runs in the first inning on an error and RBI singles by Walters and Konapelsky.

But Centennial scored three runs in the bottom of the second inning on a single by Dan Shillingburg, a double by Dupski, a walk to Swinson, a two-run single by Harclerode and an RBI ground out by Owen Dresser.

The Eagles scored the game-winning run in the third inning when Steve Seh reached on a leadoff strikeout and scored on Shillingburg's double.

River Hill scored another run in the fifth inning on a double by Walters and an RBI single by Konapelsky.

Todd Abicht started for Centennial and pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed only two unearned runs.

Walters pitched a complete-game five-hitter for River Hill.

"Walters' fastball was popping," Ahearn said. "He pitched well. I got lights-out defense from my freshmen."

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