BOYERTOWN — Luke Shank didn’t mind the early start time for the Souderton American Legion baseball team’s Region 2 Tournament opener Friday morning.
“I’d rather be out here at 10 a.m. then four with the heat,” he said.
The rest of Post 234’s lineup didn’t have a problem with the morning matchup with Schuylkill-Berks League champ Muhlenberg either.
Souderton plated five runs in batting around in the bottom of the first inning and Luke Taylor was dominant in his five frames on the mound as the defending Region 2 champs rolled to a 10-0 six-inning win over the A’s at Bear Stadium.
“We knew coming in put a few runs up, play solid defense our pitching was going to get us through,” Shank said. “So that first inning was a big help.”
Shank, Frank Pollock and Aaron Groller each collected two hits, the trio providing half of Post 234’s 12 hits as the Bux-Mont regular season and playoff champs advance to face Norchester — which topped Wanderers 7-3 in nine innings — in a winners’ bracket semifinal 4 p.m. Saturday.
“The first game of the tournament you have to check in 90 minutes early so to get here at 8:30 was good for us,” Souderton coach Paul Meara said. “They got to run around a little bit.”
After its five-spot in the first, Post 234 added four more runs in the fifth on four hits and four errors. Souderton then walked off with the 10-run mercy rule victory in the sixth on Jacob Horton’s bases-loaded single.
“Guys are loose,” Shank said. “We’re a loose team. We know we have the talent so we just string some things together we’ll be able to beat anybody here we fell like. So that’s just our mentality, keep it loose but still have the talent to get us through.”
Muhlenberg, meanwhile, claimed just one hit off Taylor — a single to right by Frank Tavares with one out in the second. The Souderton right-hander proceeded to get the next batter to hit into a double play then put down the A’s in order the next three innings.
“I was mainly sitting fastball today,” Taylor said. “Working the corners, throwing my curve a little bit and I think I threw one changeup today.”
Taylor struck out six — two each in the first, fourth and fifth — and did not allow a walk in picking up the win for his five innings of work.
“He was dealing,” said Meara of Taylor. “He’s steady man — that’s Steady Eddie. That kid doesn’t lose. So, I don’t know what his Legion record is for two years but it’s got to be close to 15-0.”
Groller reached base on all four of his plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. Shank went 2-for-3 with two RBIs while Pollock was 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs. Horton had two RBIs with Jordan Morales and Moses Clemens both scoring twice.
Souderton had just two hits in the bottom of the first but took advantage of Muhlenberg starting pitcher Dylan Sharp early struggles in finding the strike zone. Post 234 drew four walks in the inning, including three in a row — the last two with the bases loaded to bring in a pair of runs.
“We got a little help in the first,” Meara said. (Sharp) took ‘til the second to settle down so we capitalized on it, we got a couple hits. But I think we only had two hits and we got five runs. So it was a good start.”
Sharp took the loss for the A’s, giving up five runs — all earned — on six hits in 3 2/3 innings. He walked five and struck out two. Muhlenberg faces Wanderers in an elimination game 10 a.m. Saturday.
Morales led off the bottom of the first getting hit by a pitch. Groller followed with a walk while Conlan Wall’s sacrifice bunt advanced both runners. Frank Pollock’s single to the left side of the infield brought home Morales for the game’s opening run.
Clemens walked to load the bases with one out with David Gulibon and Horton following with walks for a 3-0 Post 234 lead.
“The theory was use pitches, make him work,” Meara said. “Let’s take a couple ‘til we get one that we can swing at.”
Shenk got that with the bases still packed, sending a ball into the left-center field gap for a two-RBI single, plating Clemens and Gulibon to make it 5-0.
“We knew Muhlenberg, we played them twice last year in the regional tournament,” Shenk said. “We knew they were going to be good. We got the same guy we saw in the championships, so we were expecting a good arm. And just we started, got guys on, I was able to poke that ball into the gap, score two runs.”
Souderton made its lead even more comfortable by scoring four times in the fifth. Clemens and Joe Santone started the bottom of the frame with singles with Clemens scoring after an error on Horton’s fielder’s choice.
Two batters later, Billy Norbeck made it 7-0 with an RBI single to left — an error on the play putting Norbeck on second. Norbeck came home as Morales reached on an error on his grounder to third. Groller then singled to left with an errant throw allowing Morales to score Souderton’s ninth run.
Horton came in to pitch for Taylor in the top of the sixth and after giving up a pair of walks — just Muhlenberg’s second and third baserunners of the game — got back-to-back strikeouts and a groundout to preserve the shutout.
In the bottom of the sixth, a Pollock single, Dylan Kummery getting hit by a pitch and a Santone walk loaded the bases with no outs for Horton, who singled through the left side of the infield to plate Pollock for the walk-off win.