Behind Reiff’s no-hitter, Barons pull off State upset

By on June 3, 2015

 

 

Previously, Blake Reiff’s best moment on a baseball diamond was winning the New Era Tournament’s 16U title with the Manheim VFW three summers ago.

The Manheim Central senior easily topped that on Wednesday.

Throwing an economical 71 pitches and relying on his off-speed stuff to baffle a Holy Ghost Prep lineup which boasted six Division-One recruits, Reiff crafted his first no-hitter to lead the Barons to a 1-0 upset in a PIAA Class AAA first-round game at Devon Preparatory School.

“This is, by far, number one,” the Barons’ right-hander said, still dripping from a post-game dousing from his teammates. “My goal for this game was to pitch, like, five innings and then have someone else shut the door after me. I wasn’t expecting this at all.”

Neither were the District One champion Firebirds (19-4), who gave the ball to fireballer Tim Brennan, a St. Joseph’s University recruit.

HGP’s 6-foot-3 ace yielded just three hits in the pitchers duel, but an unearned run for the Barons in the top of the sixth inning was the difference, as No. 9 hitter Peter Breit plated courtesy runner Jake Novak with an RBI single to left field.

“Incredible,” said Manheim Central skipper Matt Huber, whose team advances to play Abington Heights (a 1-0 winner over Jersey Shore) in the PIAA quarterfinals, to be held at Wenger Field in Fredericksburg today at 4 p.m. “Phenomenal effort on the part of these gentlemen, by Blake our pitcher. It’s surreal.”

Brennan, throwing in the mid-80’s, and Reiff faced the minimum number of hitters through five, although the District Three fourth-place Barons (20-8) had men on base in the first two frames who were erased by double plays.

Reiff (5-1, 3.50), battling arm tendinitis and mixing mostly splitters and curves, was perfect while retiring the first 16 batters he faced against a hard-hitting Firebirds’ batting order featuring Lehigh-bound Ryan Malloy, Washington & Lee recruit Ben Decembrino and Rider signee Nick Payesko.

“I think I threw two fastballs the whole entire game,” he said.

“We hadn’t seen anyone throw that soft all year,” a dejected Firebirds’ coach Keith Smeraglio said. “It was a great strategy by them. These kids are big-time hitters on this team as far as going D-I.”

Although Reiff struck out just two, his defense was airtight, led by center fielder Dan Wiederrecht’s five putouts. Corner outfielders Frank Bowman and Brenden Good combined for four.

“Our outfielders can cover a lot of ground,” Huber added.

Finally in the top of the sixth, a Firebird two-base throwing error on Skylar Wilson’s ground ball opened the door for the Barons. Mitchell Shenk’s bunt single put runners at the corners and then Breit stroked an 0-1 pitch from Brennan to left field for an RBI base hit.

“We know baseball has its ups and downs and we said, ‘Pete, you’re going to have a chance to win a game for us sometime,'” Huber said. “Did anyone know it was going to be the first round of States? No. But I’m glad he saved it for today.”

Reiff lost his perfect game in the bottom of the sixth with a one-out walk to Pete Oline, who was erased by Wilson trying to steal. The Firebirds also worked two other walks in the inning, but Reiff coaxed an inning-ending ground ball to Tanner Fahnestock at second.

“In the sixth inning when they got runners on, that’s when I started to freak out a little bit,” Reiff recalled. “The ball started slipping, my hand was sweaty, but the defense backed me up.”

They continued to do so in the seventh, and when Good squeezed a fly ball from Lehigh University recruit Ryan Malloy, the Barons’ upset was secured.

And so was Reiff’s no-hitter.

“Our players expected to win,” Huber said. “You have to play 21 outs, the ball bounced our way today and Blake

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