PINE GROVE, Pa. – Another stellar pitching effort by Nick Dean and a late offensive surge placed Bensalem within two victories of its first state baseball crown.
Dean fired a complete-game two-hitter with nine strikeouts, as the Owls blanked Williamsport, 6-0, in a PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal, Thursday afternoon, at Walter Stump Stadium in Schuylkill County.
"I felt very good today," Dean said matter-of-factly. "I came in prepared and located my pitches pretty well."
The District 1 champs will take on District 12 winner La Salle in a semifinal game on Monday at a neutral site and time to be determined.
Dean, a junior who has committed to the University of Maryland, mixed a fastball, curveball, and change-up. He threw 79 pitches, with 59 for strikes.
"If we're able to give Nick the lead, we know we're in good position to win the game," senior teammate Stephen Aldrich said.
Dean and fellow righthander Aldrich, a Monmouth recruit who played second base against Williamsport, have been a sensational one-two punch on the mound.
Dean is 6-2 with a 1.16 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings. Aldrich is 9-1 with a 0.69 ERA and 89 whiffs in 61 1/3 innings.
"It's just fun to sit back and watch them do their thing," said Bensalem fifth-year coach Harry Daut, who pitched for Bensalem and Temple.
After leaving six baserunners stranded in the first four innings, the Owls (22-3) touched starter Tanner Esposito for two runs in the home fifth. Aldrich's triple to right field plated Keith Parrish, and Jon Revell's single up the middle drove home Aldrich.
"He threw me a fastball," Aldrich said. "I just tried to get a good swing on it and give us our first run."
Bensalem clinched the win over the Millionaires (14-7) with a four-run sixth highlighted by Brian Swentkowski's sacrifice fly to right, Parrish's RBI squeeze bunt, Aldrich's double to center, and Damon Lavender's RBI infield single.
Swentkowski (2 for 3), Parrish (2 for 4, two runs) and Aldrich (2 for 4, run) sparked the 11-hit attack. Swentkowski, a shortstop and leadoff man, is batting .342 with 16 runs, 10 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
Dean gave up singles in the second and seventh. He struck out the side to punctuate the squad's ninth straight victory.
"We're really enjoying this ride," Daut said. "We want to keep it going for as long as we can."
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