WILLIAMSPORT - For many high school athletic teams, there is usually one nemesis when it comes to advancing in the state playoffs. For the Jersey Shore baseball team in recent years, that team happened to be whoever was representing District II.
One year ago, the Bulldogs lost to a tough Tunkhannock squad that eventually made it to the state title game.
But that was last year - this is 2012 and Tellef Notevarp and bunch of scrappy Bulldogs were determined not to let history repeat itself as the Bulldogs blanked North Pocono, 2-0, to advance to the Elite Eight of the PIAA Class AAA state tournament.
Jersey Shore’s Tellef Notevarp delivers to the plate on Tuesday against North Pocono in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA state baseball tournament in Williamsport.
"I just told the kids that was nothing but a total team effort," a happy Matt O'Brien said after addressing his squad. "Their pitcher (Billy Nelson) was on and obviously Tellef (Notevarp) has always been the strong point for us and we played great defense behind him. When we do that, we have a chance to win any ball game we play. We got bunts down, we got some clutch hitting and I am just excited for the kids."
Notevarp flirted with a no-hitter until with one out in the seventh Ray Grepsy put a good swing on a pitch out over the plate and lined it into left field for a solid single. For the game, the senior righthander allowed just the one hit, striking out seven and walking three. For his seven innings of work, Notevarp faced more than three batters in an inning just once.
"I knew I had it going, but I just tried not to think about it," Notevarp said about the possibility of a no-hitter. "I knew that the more I would think about it the more nervous I would get so I just tried not to think about it at all. We are a solid team defensively so I knew if I let the other team hit the ball, our defense could go to work and make some plays and they did that tonight. Right now this one feels real good, but now we have to focus on going out and getting another win Thursday."
While Notevarp delivered the pitches, Shore catcher Ryan Koch did an outstanding job of receiving them.
"We called it and it was a great pitch," Koch said about the base hit by Grepsy. "We had two strikes on him so we went away, away and it was about a foot outside. But he is a great hitter and he did what a great hitter does by taking it the other way. He (Notevarp) spots his pitches real well and this was one of his better nights. He knows when he has to juice it up and put a little extra behind it and I think that was a big factor in his success tonight."
The Bulldogs threatened in the top of the first when Kaiden Brungard doubled just inside the first base bag. Brungard moved to third on a groundout by Colton Potter, but was stranded there when Billy Nelson sandwiched strikeouts around a walk. For some teams, the failure to score in that situation might have affected them, but for this group of Bulldogs, it didn't phase them in the least.
"The one big thing about this group is that they are resilient," O'Brien said. "We have been down in a lot of ball games this year, but regardless of how much they were down, they have always found a way to fight back. The only two games we lost this year were both one-run, walk-off hits. They believe in each other, they aren't about to give in and when Tellef is on the mound, it always makes you feel a little better."
While the game featured a pitcher's duel between Notevarp and North Pocono's Billy Nelson through the first four-and-a-half innings, it was Notevarp and the canine crew that came away with the win.
After being turned away in the first, the Bulldogs got offensive with Nelson in the bottom of the fifth as they worked him for a free pass and two hits to score the only two runs of the game.
Ryan Huling walked and Chris Glunk was safe and secure at first when his bunt was mishandled by Nelson. Galen Greider followed with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt moving Huling to third and pinch-runner Caleb Barnhart to second.
Huling scored the game's first run on a passed ball charged to the NP catcher and on the heels of that mistake by the Trojans, Brungard picked up his second base hit of the game, a RBI single to right.
"I knew he was throwing first pitch fastballs, it was outside and I just took it to right," Brungard said about his double in the first inning. "As for the second one, I wasn't trying to hit a home run, I just wanted to make contact with the ball and put it in play. I kept my hands back and got enough of it to get it to the outfield for the hit."
As for not taking advantage of the first-inning opportunity, Brungard said when that happens, he and his teammates have a short memory.
"We don't let anything get us down," he said. "When we got hits right off the bat and got guys in scoring position we knew we would be OK. Right now, this feels awesome."
Defensively, the Bulldogs once again played errorless ball while turning a pair of double plays to keep the Trojans under control.
In the first inning, Notevarp and Koch hooked up for a strike-him-out, throw-him-out effort before the Bulldogs closed out the game with a 6-4-3 twin killing executed to perfection by Colton Potter, Ryan Huling and Chris Glunk.
With the win, the Bulldogs advance to the Elite Eight of the tournament to face the winner of the Lampeter-Strasburg versus Philadelphia Electric game. That contest will be Thursday at a time and site to be determined by PIAA officials.
PIAA Class AAA Baseball Championship
JERSEY SHORE 2,
NORTH POCONO 0
NP 000 000 0 - 0 1 1
JS 000 020 X - 2 3 0
NP: Billy Nelson and James Brown. JS: Tellef Notevarp and Ryan Koch. WP - Notevarp. LP _ Nelson. 2B: JS, Kaiden Brungard.