By Wayne Witkowski
Allentown High School’s baseball team bounced back into contention for the state tournament at 6-6 when it won two games last week, and the team can especially thank junior Ryan Huth for it.
Huth batted in two runs to back the pitching of Jordan Winston when Allentown beat Steinert High School, 4-2, April 25, to snapping a three-game losing streak and avoiding a play-in game in the Mercer County Tournament. The Redbirds then came back to beat winless Lawrence High School, 8-1, April 27, as Huth pitched six strong innings of three-hit relief, striking out 10 and walking four while allowing the lone run. Second baseman Aydon Chavis collected three hits and was one of six Redbirds to drive in a run.
Allentown must win two of its next three games to have a winning record at the 15-game state cutoff, although a team just under .500 can get in to help fill the 16-team bracket as needed.
“A winning record guarantees us, but we’re probably in either way,” Allentown coach Brian Nice said after the two victories. “We’ll be playing a whole lot of baseball over the next couple of weeks with a deep pitching staff.”
A few years ago, the Redbirds qualified with a sub-.500 record but elected not to participate.
Allentown was scheduled to take on Princeton Day School May 2 in its Mercer County Tournament opener and to travel to Notre Dame High School May 6 before hosting Trenton Central High School May 9 in the first of four consecutive home games.
“We are trying to get back to where we need to be,” said Nice, who has a young lineup with as many as four sophomores and two seniors starting at times. “We had a rough week two weeks ago, and we are trying to get that past us. We let one slip away against Hopewell Valley, where we had the lead (5-3) in the fifth inning (and lost, 6-5), and Hamilton West is a good team and we did not play well against them at all (a 5-0 loss).”
Huth, with a 2-0 record in 16.2 innings pitched, has allowed five runs on nine hits, striking out 25 and walking 11. Colton Johnson is 2-0, allowing one run on nine hits in 13.1 innings. He has 11 strikeouts and seven walks. Winston has allowed six runs on 11 hits in his 11.2 innings pitched while winning his first decision against Steinert, which comes into this week 13-3.
Kyle Lysy, despite an 0-3 record, has allowed 13 runs on 19 hits in 20.1 innings pitched. He has a 25-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Huth said that the Redbirds, deep in pitching, now have some momentum and confidence they need for the big week ahead after the Lawrence victory.
“I like what we’ve got in pitching. We have the potential to be really good. There are guys who have not been in the mix yet,” Nice said. “Pitching has kept us in games. We haven’t had a lot of offense, and our defense has been making mistakes. But moving forward, playing against high quality teams, you’re not able to make mistakes that hitting can carry you through. We’re a young team that will figure it out. The more games they play, the better they’ll get into a rhythm.”
Huth leads the Redbirds with seven RBIs while batting .323 in the cleanup spot. He plays first base when he’s not pitching. Outfielder Robbie Matos has knocked in six runs, while fellow outfielder Frank DelGuercio has batted in five while batting .378.
Defensively, Brendan Munoz starts at shortstop and Giuseppe Arcuri plays third base, while Ryan Gould and Chris Reeder split time at catcher.
“It’s a luxury having two catchers who can both do the job,” Nice said.
The coach noted that Ryan Baber is the best defensive outfielder in an area where the Redbirds also have good depth. Austin Ferrier in right field and Matt Coiante in left field play a lot of innings. Munoz also gets innings in the outfield, and the depth will help for the tough schedule ahead.
Allentown (11-6) entered the week on a four-game losing streak that has dropped it to 3-3 in the Colonial Valley Conference Patriot Division. The Redbirds lost a showdown for division leadership, 7-0, to Robbinsville High School April 25, followed by losses to Hopewell Valley Central High School, 5-4, April 27; East Brunswick High School, 7-2, April 28; and Ewing High School, 8-1, April 29.
It comes into this week scheduled for games against Hightstown High School May 2 and at Princeton High School May 4.
Alyssa Ariano had some timely hits through last week, including the lone hit against Robbinsville’s Samantha Deck, who struck out eight and did not walk a batter. Alyssa Notarianni belted a solo home run against East Brunswick. Madison Storey collected three hits against Hopewell Valley.
Allentown dropped its last two games coming into this week against Hopewell Valley, 12-6, April 29 and Watchung Hills Regional High School, 12-2, April 27. James Neebling and Kevin Moore each scored twice against Hopewell Valley, and Kyle Moore and Mike Surace each scored against Watchung Hills.
Michael Dacey broke loose for seven goals and two assists in a 17-8 victory over West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North April 26 before the slump. Connor Provost added three goals.
The Redbirds looked to bounce back in a game scheduled against Westfield High School May 2 before facing Lawrence May 5 in their Mercer County Tournament opener.
Danielle Sullivan scored five goals and had three assists, while Kali Hartshorn and Alyssa Sloane each added three goals, as fifth-seeded Allentown (8-4) beat 12th-seeded Steinert, 18-2, April 29 in the first round of the Mercer County Tournament in Allentown.
Abby Howell and Jillian Rekulak shared time in goal, as the Redbirds won their fourth straight.
The Redbirds had come off a telltale 10-6 victory over formidable Shore Regional High School, as Hartshorn scored four goals and had five assists and younger sister Marin Hartshorn had three goals and two assists. Sloane tallied two goals and three assists.
Allentown also beat West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, 14-2, as Kali Hartshorn came up with three goals and four assists, and Sloane also drilled home three goals.
Allentown was scheduled to visit Princeton May 3 and will face Robbinsville at home May 9 before taking on Notre Dame May 11.