READING – Neumann-Goretti's bid to move closer to its third straight state baseball crown was halted by a southpaw with a hard fastball and biting slider.
The Saints managed only two hits off Schuylkill Haven's Brandon Schaeffer and fell to the Hurricanes, 4-0, in a PIAA Class AA quarterfinal Friday afternoon at Muhlenberg High.
"His slider was just as good as his fastball," Neumann-Goretti senior second baseman Adam Jaep said. "He did a nice job of keeping us off-balance."
Schaeffer racked up 11 strikeouts in a complete-game victory while walking two. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior fired 91 pitches, with 65 for strikes.
"Honestly, in warm-ups, my arm was a little tight," Schaeffer said. "I wasn't feeling the best. But as the game went on, I got stronger and stronger."
On Monday, Schaeffer twirled a five-hitter with 14 K's in Schuylkill Haven's 4-1, first-round defeat of Wellsboro.
The quarterfinal was pushed back a day because of senior graduation for both schools. Had the game been played Thursday, Schaeffer would not have been able to take the mound for the District 11 champs due to the PIAA's pitch-count rules.
Schaeffer is 12-1 with an ERA of 0.65 and 147 whiffs in 83 innings. He is bound for West Virginia's Potomac State College, a National Junior College Athletic Association program.
"He really works at his craft," longtime Schuylkill Haven coach Scott Buffington said. "He's not a kid that's going to go out there and throw the ball without a purpose."
Third baseman Billy D'Ambrosia's third-inning single up the middle and first baseman R.J. McGetttigan's sixth-inning single to right field were Neumann-Goretti's only hits.
"I thought at some point in the game we were going to get to [Schaeffer]," Jaep said. "We stayed confident. But it just wasn't our day."
Senior rightfielder and No. 2 batter Nick Yeastedt paced an eight-hit attack for the Hurricanes (22-4). He tripled and scored in the visiting third, and ripped a two-run triple in the same direction in the seventh to cap the scoring.
Joe Messina, Neumann-Goretti's ace, gave up six hits and fanned six before reaching the 100-pitch limit in the seventh and giving way to fellow junior Gabe Rappa.
With McGettigan on first base and two out in the sixth, Schaeffer got designated hitter and cleanup man Joe LaFiora to fly out to right.
"I took a big sigh of relief after getting [LaFiora] out, because I knew he was a strong hitter," Schaeffer said.
The Saints (15-6) lose four stalwarts to graduation: McGettigan, LaFiora, shortstop Aidan Baur, and centerfielder Colin Eiser. LaFiora and Eiser doubled as pitchers.
"That team battled, scrapped the whole way," Buffington said. "We knew we had to be at our best to beat them."
Schuylkill Haven 011 000 2 – 4 8 0
Neumann-Goretti 000 000 0 – 0 2 1
WP: Brandon Schaeffer. LP: Joe Messina.