UPPER DUBLIN >> For the third time this season Upper Dublin pitcher Tristan Cairnes got the ball against rival Wissahickon.
After a 4-1 loss in April and a 6-5 win 10 days ago, Cairnes brought his best when it mattered most.
The right-hander threw a complete game two-hitter as No. 6 Upper Dublin rallied past No. 11 Wissahickon, 2-1, in the first round of the District 1-5A playoffs Monday afternoon at Upper Dublin High School.
“I know almost every guy on that team,” Cairnes said after crediting his curveball, ball placement and the defense behind him for the successful outing. “I know all the tendencies. I knew where to throw it. We executed as a team.”
The two hits Cairnes allowed were on opposite ends of the game. The first was a leadoff triple in the top of the first inning while the second came with two outs in the top of the seventh. Over seven innings, Cairnes struck out three batters to no walks while allowing one earned run.
“As with a lot of pitchers everywhere you get out of the first inning you can breathe a sigh of relief and settle in,” Upper Dublin coach Ed Wall said, “and he did that. He did a fantastic job out there – he was so efficient and our defense played fantastic out there. We made the plays we’re supposed to make and I couldn’t be more proud of the group. They did a great job.”
“Tristan’s a very good pitcher,” Wissahickon coach Andy Noga said. “He’s a pitcher we were seeing for the third time, so it’s a credit to Tristan for keeping us off-balance there. We still felt like we hit some balls hard, just right at guys. Some of the bounces just didn’t go our way today.”
Cairnes needed to be at his best against Wissahickon’s Ben Junker. The Trojans right-hander went 5.2 innings, striking out four batters to three walks while allowing two runs on five hits.
“Ben battled out there,” Noga said. “That’s exactly what we expect Ben Junker to do. Ben Junker is a battler. We’ll give him the ball in that moment any time.”
The game-winning run came after Junker reached his pitch limit. He exited the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning and Upper Dublin’s David Sharp on first base. Nate DeVincent came on in relief and walked Jared Levis before hitting Kyle Rizzo to load the bases. Nick Lombardo worked a bases-loaded walk to bring home the game-deciding run.
“(Nate’s) a guy we trust in that situation,” Noga said. “He has to throw strikes. We were in a little bit of a hole today defensively without our starting catcher (Seth Floyd) and Aidan DeFeo had to step in there and catch. He did a good job trying his best to handle our pitchers. Credit to Aidan for his first time catching since winter workouts.”
Cairnes also did some damage with his bat.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Upper Dublin’s Rizzo was hit by a pitch, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Wissahickon intentionally walked Ethan Madnick to get to Cairnes. A hit-and-run worked perfectly for the Cardinals – Cairnes grounder was just out of the reach of Wissahickon’s diving shortstop Jackson Tappen and into left field. Rizzo scored to tie the game at one.
“(Cairnes) came down to me and he said, ‘that’s a mistake right there,’” Wall said, referring to the intentional walk. “First pitch – bang. That’s the type of competitor the kid is. He’s not afraid of the big moment and he’s ready to step up, put us on his back and lead us to the W.”
“I definitely took (the intentional walk) personally,” Cairnes said. “I even said something to coach on the way down to third base. I knew I was getting a hit there. Fastball up – I just pulled it, put it in play. That’s all I needed to do.”
Junker provided Wissahickon’s only run of the game. He led off the top of the first inning with a triple and scored on a wild pitch to give Trojans a 1-0 advantage.
Upper Dublin advances to the second round, where it will face No. 3 Oxford Wednesday. This was the Cardinals first playoff victory since 2016.
“It’s awesome,” Cairnes said. “I’m very excited. Get back to it on Wednesday. We’re feeling good.”
The loss brings an end to Wissahickon’s season.
“This was my first four-year group,” Noga said of the senior class. “Four years with these guys – so this loss hurts for sure. It hurts a lot. We’re going to look back on this season and it’s not really going to be about wins and losses – it’s the fact that we had a season this year and were able to be together as a group and have one last ride together. They’re going to look back on the memories they made on-and-off-the-field at practice day-in and day-out. I’m proud of the way they battled and I’m proud of the way they represented Wissahickon baseball today.
Upper Dublin 2, Wissahickon 1
Wissahickon 100 000 0 – 1
Upper Dublin 000 011 x – 2
WP: Tristan Cairnes 7 IP 3 K 0 BB 2 H 1 R
LP: Ben Junker 5.2 IP 4 K 3 BB 5 H 2 R
3B: W: Ben Junker.