HORSHAM >> Hatboro-Horsham got off to a slow start this season, losing five of its first seven games, before putting things together and earning the No. 7 seed in the District 1-6A playoffs.
The Hatters followed a similar path in the district quarterfinals Friday morning.
Pitcher Cole Fisher got off to a slow start against No. 18 Garnet Valley – allowing two runs on three hits in the top of the first inning. He didn’t allow another hit the rest of the game and the Hatters scored 12 unanswered runs to win, 12-2 in five innings, at Hatboro-Horsham Senior High School.
The win sends the Hatters to the district semifinals against the winner of Central Bucks South and Neshaminy and secures a spot in the PIAA-6A state playoffs.
The Hatters cut their early deficit in half in the bottom of the first inning when Jack Elwell walked, advanced to second on a Fisher single and third on a passed ball before scoring on an error.
Hatboro-Horsham’s offense got going in the third inning and didn’t stop until the game was over.
Trey Porter led off the bottom of the third with a double and Elwell’s bunt single put runners on the corners. Elwell stole second before Jimmy Tooley hit a one-out, two-run double, giving the Hatters a 3-2 lead. Tooley advanced to third and scored on two wild pitches to make it 4-2.
The Hatters added three more runs in the fourth inning. Porter hit a sacrifice fly to score Logan Fischer, who doubled. After a pitching change, Fisher stepped to the plate with one out and runners on the corners. Elwell took second on a wild pitch before Fisher hit a slow grounder to the right side of the infield. Noah Gremo scored from third and Elwell came all the way home from second while Fisher got thrown out at first base, making it 7-2 Hatboro-Horsham.
“Jack (Elwell) gives you a chance,” Hatters coach Pete Moore said. “He plays as hard as anybody. He’s as quick as anybody. Him going as hard as he could off the little dribbler gave me a chance to send him there. I’ll take a chance with a competitor and athlete like Jack to score on a play and it worked out in our favor. I felt like that was the play that was the nail in the coffin for them. That was the dagger. It was just an exciting baseball play.”
“I love hitting behind Jack Elwell,” Fisher said. “I know he’s getting on and I know he’s scoring no matter where I hit it because he’s just crazy fast and speed kills.”
In the fifth inning, H-H scored five runs to take a 10-run lead and end the game. Ryan Toporowski scored on an error and Fisher hit a two-out three-run double to make it 11-2.
“I saw a bunch of curveballs all day,” Fisher said. “I was sitting curveball and then I got a fastball. I just turned on it.”
Tooley made it 12-2 with a walkoff RBI single.
Fisher and Tooley, the Hatters three and four hitters, finished with eight combined RBI.
“You can’t ask for more than that,” Moore said. “Jimmy is a senior leader and even when we’re up nine there (in the fifth), you want to bury them. You don’t want to give them a chance. Jimmy to get that hit was awesome.”
While the Hatters offense was putting up crooked numbers, Fisher was mowing down the Jaguars lineup. He retired the side in order in the second and third innings before a two-out walk was the only blemish in the fourth. In the fifth inning the leadoff batter reached on an error, but a 5-4-3 double play allowed him to get out of the inning facing only three batters.
“I really focused more on getting my fastball into the zone on the first pitch,” Fisher said. “First inning I was behind way too many guys and they could figure out what I was throwing next and it caused me to give up two runs in the first inning. I just settled into the zone.”
“Cole settled in,” Moore agreed. “He gave up two in the first and nothing after that. I think he just had to calm his emotions down he was so excited about the game. Once he was able to breathe and slow the game down he was tremendous for us.”
The double play was one of two big defensive plays made behind Fisher. The first was Porter throwing a runner out at third base in the first inning to keep Garnet Valley from scoring even more runs. The double play in the fifth featured quick releases from third baseman Nick Katherine and second baseman Gremo.
“Nick Katherine always makes the big plays when it matters,” Fisher said. “He’s always there when you need him and the defense always picks you up.”
The Jaguars took a 2-0 lead on a two-out, two-run single by Ryan Wootten in the top of the first.
“We had three emotional days in a row and three really big wins for us,” GV coach Rudy Shilling said. “It seemed like in that first inning we were really excited and things were going our way, but as soon as we got down a little it made it very difficult for us to come back. It started to snowball one thing after the other. (Hatboro-Horsham) is very fast, so they put the pressure on you. They hit the ball, they put the ball in play a lot.”
In Moore’s 20 years as head coach at Hatboro-Horsham, this is the third team to reach the state playoffs. The Hatters also qualified in 2012 and 2017.
“All three of the teams – the one thing they had in common was the bond that the guys had with each other,” Moore said. “The closeness between the players is very apparent this year. The guys stick together and it’s a tight-knit group.”
Garnet Valley will have a chance to earn the fifth and final District 1-6A spot in the state playoffs. They will enter a four-team playback bracket next week with the other quarterfinal losers to determine which team advances to states.
“We’re excited to be here,” Shilling said. “Guys are happy that we got this opportunity – always look forward to these opportunities.”
Hatboro-Horsham 12, Garnet Valley 2
Garnet Valley 200 00 – 2
Hatboro-Horsham 103 35 – 12
WP: Cole Fisher 5 IP 1 K 2 BB 3 H 2 R
LP: Frank Yocum 1.1 IP 2 K 0 BB 6 H 6 R
2B: HH: Logan Fischer, Cole Fisher, Trey Porter, Jimmy Tooley.