Kurtz hurls Boyertown past Phoenixville for another PAC championship

Noah Kurtz fires a pitch during his complete-game shutout for the Bears Friday night.
(Austin Hertzog - Digital First Media ahertzog@digitalfirstmedia.com )

By DAVE KURTZ

BOYERTOWN  - When Boyertown absorbed a 13-3 drubbing at the hands of Owen J. Roberts back in early April, veteran coach Todd Moyer shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly.

“It’s a long season,” said Moyer.

Moyer, who’s been around the game for the better part of 50 years as an elite player and coach in the juggernaut Boyertown baseball program – interrupted only by a professional stint in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization – is much more than a baseball guy. He's also a prophet.

That ‘long season,’ which began with a middling 3-3 start, morphed into another trip to the championship podium for the Bears, who took care of business with a 7-0 triumph over second-seeded Phoenixville in the PAC title clash at Bear Stadium Friday night.

“We got 10-runned at Owen J. but I wasn’t that concerned,” said Moyer. “Over the course of the season, these kids showed that they’re a mature bunch.

“If you look at the early part of the season, you would say they exceeded our expectations. But I never lost trust in them, always believed in what they could do. This is a resilient team.”

That resiliency came to the forefront when Boyertown strung together a nine-game winning streak at the back end of the regular season to qualify for the PAC Final Four as the No. 4 seed and continued through the league playoffs.

Friday night, after handling top-seeded Spring-Ford 5-3 in the afternoon semifinal, the Bears sealed the deal with a 7-0 blanking of PAC Frontier Division champion and No. 2 seed Phoenixville.

Senior left-hander Noah Kurtz delivered a lights-out pitching clinic, limiting the Phantoms to six hits and one walk with six strikeouts while Jake DiCesare and Mike Hohlfeld combined for five RBI to bring Moyer his ninth league crown since 2004 and first since 2016 – a year that produced Boyertown’s second state title under Moyer.

“This wasn’t the first Kurtz I’ve seen come up big in a big game,” said Moyer. “Noah had total command of all his pitches and total command of the game.”

It seemed ironic that the Player of the Game had the first name of Noah during a week of Biblical rain that threatened to wipe out the PAC baseball playoffs entirely. But magnificent jobs by the grounds crews at Boyertown and Spring-Ford assured the games would be played and no arks would be required.

“I had good command of all of my pitches – the fastball, two-seamer, changeup and curve,” said Kurtz. “I went mainly with my curve – I was changing speeds with it – and it was falling in for strikes.

“I had to laugh when I saw that guy with a radar gun clocking my pitches behind home plate. I don’t throw that hard, I pitch to contact, and we played another clean game behind me. The guys always seem to have my back.”

Kurtz’s teammates did just enough with the bats, parlaying six hits, 14 walks and one HBP into seven runs which proved to be overkill the way the senior southpaw was dealing against the Phantoms, who advanced to the final with a 3-1 win over (3) Methacton (15-5) behind left-hander Luke  Bagley’s complete-game five-hitter at Spring-Ford.

Boyertown drew first blood with a run in the top of the first when DiCesare drew a bases loaded walk, tacked on two more in the fourth on Hohlfeld’s booming RBI-double to center and DiCesare’s run-scoring single to left and pushed the advantage to 6-0 with three in the sixth on Hunter Ewing’s steal of home, Hohlfeld’s RBI on a hit batsman and another bases-loaded walk to DiCesare.

“I’m seeing the ball really well right now,” said Hohlfeld, whose solo homer to left in the win over Spring-Ford turned a narrow 4-3 lead into a two-run cushion in the fifth inning and blunted the Rams’ momentum from a three-run rally in the home fourth. “The homer was on a curveball, and I kind of knew what pitch was coming.”

Hohlfeld also picked up the mound win in the semifinal conquest of the Rams (19-3), working 4 1/3 sharp innings before yielding to the shutdown relief tandem of Pat Wieand and Gavin Henderson (save).

In the championship game, Mitchell Peers led the Boyertown attack with two hits and one run scored while Austyn Levengood went 1-for-3 with three runs. Will Trianosky had a pair of hits for the Phantoms.

“We put the ball in play and hit some balls hard, but it was right at them,” said Phoenixville coach Neil Herman, whose decision to start seldom-used right-hander Colin Bowdish in the title clash had some scratching their heads.

Instead of going with ace Kevin Cushing, who would have given the Phantoms a better shot at winning a championship in one of the best baseball leagues in the state, Herman decided to hold out Cushing for Monday’s District 1-5A playoff opener at home against 12th seeded West Chester Rustin.

“It could have been a different story if we didn’t have all the rain and everything else this week,” said Herman. “The way things fell, it was an unlucky draw for us. But we’ve got to be ready for districts.”

After a first-round bye, No. 8 Boyertown will host PAC rival (9) Methacton in the District 1-6A playoffs Wednesday at Bear Stadium (4 pm).

But Friday, it was all about another coronation for the Bears.
“We struggled at the beginning of the season, but we started building team chemistry,” said Hohlfeld. “We never lost faith in ourselves, and now we just have to keep it rolling in districts.”

 
 
(2) Phoenixivlle 3, (3) Methacton 1
MethactonABRHBI PhoenixvilleABRHBI
Corda3010 Opalkowski1100
Trafford2000 Fink2100
Smith3000 LeBeau2110
Rodriguez3110 Goryl3000
Engelman3020 Shoemaker2000
Sheridan0000 Brown2000
Lukas3011 Miller1001
Dubost3000 Bieler0000
Christian2000 Clark3000
Timko0000 Blakey2000
Totals22151 Totals18312
Methacton      000 001 0 – 1
Phoenixville   003 000 x – 3
E-Phoenixville 2. 2B-Rodriguez. SB-Corda.

 

MethactonIPHRERBBSOBF PhoenixvilleIPHRERBBSOBF
Dubost (L)2.113362- Bagley (W)7.051110-
Griffin3.200011-