Bensalem's quest for its first state baseball championship was in serious jeopardy as it trailed La Salle by three runs with two-at bats remaining Tuesday.
"I was a little concerned, but honestly, I don't think our kids were," Bensalem coach Harry Daut said.
The Owls scratched out three runs in the sixth inning to even things, then knocked off the Explorers, 5-4, in eight innings in a PIAA Class 6A semifinal at Neumann University's Bruder Field.
The difference was Nick Fossile's one-out sacrifice fly to left-center field that plated pinch-runner Dave Barnett from third base.
"It was an outside fastball," Fossile said. "I just threw my hands out and got enough of the ball to pop it into the outfield."
La Salle didn't go down quietly. With one out in the bottom half, Owen Lawn and Joe Sortino each registered singles. Matt Acker advanced both with a sacrifice bunt, and Eric Marasheski walked to load the bases.
That set up a high-stakes duel between top-notch junior righthander Nick Dean, a Maryland recruit, and hard-hitting senior third baseman Andrew Cossetti (St. Joseph's).
Dean clinched the hard-fought victory on his first pitch to Cossetti, inducing a fly ball to left-center. "Nick can get anyone out, so I had faith in him," Bensalem starter Stephen Aldrich said.
The Owls (23-3) will seek top honors when they meet District 7's Canon-McMillian at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The Mighty Macs (20-5) eliminated Council Rock North, 4-1, in Tuesday's other semifinal.
"This playoff run has been great," Daut said. "Our kids are prepared, play loose, and never waver."
The Explorers touched Aldrich, a senior righthander and Monmouth recruit, for three runs in the first. Anthony Cossetti produced an RBI double down the left-field line and Shane Manieri delivered a two-run single up the middle.
Centerfielder Keith Parrish singled and scored for Bensalem in the fourth to make it 3-1, but La Salle (23-4) regained its three-run cushion on an error in the bottom half.
Bensalem forged a 4-4 tie in the fifth with the aid of the three walks yielded by ace starter Joe Miller and reliever Gavin Moretski's back-to-back wild pitches.
"That happens on occasion," Explorers coach Kyle Werman said of Moretski's wayward throws. "But that's not the reason why we lost. There were many other plays that factored into it. Sometimes, the chips don't fall your way."
La Salle was denied a run in the fifth when Anthony Cossetti (single and stolen base) tried to score on Jack Ruch's single but was tagged out at the plate on a perfect relay from Parrish to first baseman Fossile to catcher Scott Rooney.
Bensalem 000 103 01 – 5 6 1
La Salle 300 100 00 – 4 11 3