STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Because of the time it took to complete the previous two PIAA state baseball finals, the start of Thursday night’s Class 5A championship between Marple Newtown and Lower Dauphin was delayed by more than an hour.
The Tigers and Falcons continued that trend, battling 10 innings at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park before a champion was crowned.
Marple Newtown emerged on top in the marathon tilt, with Luke Zimmerman’s walk-off RBI single that bounced off the bottom of the right-field fence producing a dramatic 2-1 victory and the program’s first state title.
Zimmerman, an ace southpaw who pitched 6 2/3 innings before moving to first base, plated Sean Donnell (one-out single to left field) with his 38th hit of the season. The bases-loaded shot ended a contest that lasted just over three hours.
“I was going to do anything I could to put the bat on the ball and hit it hard,” said Zimmerman, a St. Joseph’s University recruit. “I wasn’t going to let my team down.”
Righthander Sean Standen (7-0) picked up the win in relief of Zimmerman, who finished with a 10-0 record. Standen tossed shutout ball for 4 1/3 innings, striking out five and allowing three hits.
Marple Newtown celebrates its 2-1, 10-inning victory over Lower Dauphin. Luke Zimmerman’s walk-off RBI single off the right-field Wall with 2 out gave the Tigers (25-2) their first state baseball title. @RallyPhilly @MNAthletics @MNBaseball1 @MNTigers @The_SFBN pic.twitter.com/6ZEAaBn0Dg
— Rick O'Brien (@ozoneinq) June 15, 2018
The Tigers (25-2) won despite stranding 14 baserunners. Lower Dauphin, which is located just outside of Hershey, was right behind the Central League titlists in that category with 13.
The Falcons (23-4) took a 1-0 advantage in the fourth on Connor Buggy’s out-one RBI single to left field. They were in position to add to their lead, with the bases jammed and two out, but Zimmerman induced a fly ball to shallow right field.
After leaving eight men on base in their first five at-bats, The Tigers evened things in the sixth. Rob Weimer smacked a one-out double to left field and scored on Donnell’s bloop single in the same direction.
With two outs in the fifth, Zimmerman singled to left and Luke Cantwell and Kevin Merrone followed with walks. But Lower Dauphin starter Ryan Kutz, a junior righthander, kept the Tigers off the scoreboard with a strikeout.
Marple Newtown loaded the bases with two out in the second, but Kutz got centerfielder and leadoff man Alden Mathes to fly out to center.
The Tigers’ Luke Cantwell ripped a two-out double down the third-base line in the first, but pinch-runner Jack Molinaro, who was trying to score from first on the play, was tagged out on a relay throw home.
It was Marple Newtown’s second appearance in the state final. The Tigers advanced to the Class 3A final in 2007 before losing to District 9’s Punxsutawney, 5-4.
Lower Dauphin 000 100 000 0-1 9 1
Marple Newtown 000 001 000 1-2 12 1
WP: Sean Standen. LP: Will Manley. 2B: MN-Luke Cantwell, Rob Weimer.