After falling just short of qualifying for the PIAA District 1 Class AAA baseball playoffs in each of the last two seasons, Harriton is making the most of this year's appearance with a senior-dominated lineup.
Coach Scott Kurzinsky's squad earned the program's first berth in the state playoffs Saturday afternoon with a 10-0, five-inning rout of Lower Moreland in a district semifinal at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth in Plymouth Meeting.
"This is amazing," winning pitcher Corey Neel said. "It's huge, especially since this is new territory for us."
The sixth-seeded Rams will face fourth-seeded Pope John Paul II, a 3-1 winner Saturday over top-seeded Holy Ghost Prep, for top district honors at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Villanova's field. Both teams have clinched berths in the state tournament.
"Over the last four seasons, these guys have gradually worked more and more as a team," Kurzinsky said. "The way they've developed has been something special."
Against seventh-seeded Lower Moreland, in a contest that was postponed Thursday at Glen Mills because of rain and hail, Neel struck out eight - six were caught looking - scattered five singles, and allowed one walk.
"I pretty much pitch to contact," the 6-foot-5, 210-pound senior said. "The big thing for me is getting ahead in the count."
Neel, who will continue his career at Widener, mixed a fastball (two- and four-seam), change-up, and curveball in improving his season record to 8-1. The 18-year-old from Ardmore whiffed seven of the Lions' first 12 batters.
"He attacks the zone, has multiple pitches he can throw for strikes," Kurzinsky said. "He's a kid who works hard to succeed."
In registering 10 hits, Harriton (14-6) was sparked by centerfielder Andre Pendleton (2 for 4, three RBIs, two runs), third baseman Drake Friend (2 for 2, two walks, three runs, RBI), and first baseman Jimmy Bredt (three runs, two walks).
Catcher Skylar Katz delivered a two-run double in a three-run second inning; leftfielder Jake Rosenberg, who is bound for Alvernia, had an RBI single in the first; and junior shortstop Jessie Bregman brought on the 10-run mercy rule with an RBI single in the fifth.
The 6-foot, 205-pound Pendleton, a No. 3 hitter who produced a two-run double to right-center field in the fifth, will play baseball and football at Juniata. He was a running back and safety for the Rams in football.
Lower Moreland (11-10) loaded the bases in the fifth, but second baseman Steve Sicilliano ended the threat by snagging a liner and doubling up the runner at first.
Lower Moreland 000 00 - 0 5 1
Harriton 231 13 - 10 10 1
WP: Corey Neel. LP: Joe Benvenuto. 2B: H-Neel, Drake Friend, Skylar Katz, Andre Pendleton.