June 3, 2013 7:00 a.m. —
Saegertown has been in this position before, entering the PIAA playoffs as the best team out of District 10.
The difference between now and the past is the task ahead.
The Panthers (19-2) will open the PIAA Class AA playoffs today at Jerry Uht Park in Erie against WPIAL runner-up Quaker Valley (21-1). The Quakers first and only loss came to Beaver in the WPIAL Class AA title game. It is a tough draw for the locals, after reaching the PIAA quarterfinals last year.
There are several keys to Quaker Valley, and the biggest is the arms it can throw from the mound.
Jake Pilewicz tossed a four-hit shutout against Deer Lakes in the WPIAL semis, and tossed a one-hitter against Freeport in the quarters. In the final, he got hit hard and lasted just 2 1/3 innings. The loss to Beaver dropped him to 6-1 on the year. The Quakers also have Tyler Garbee and his 8-0 mark. Chances are, one of the two will deal to the Panthers.
Pilewicz is not just the one of team’s best arms, he is its best hitter with a .478 average in the regular season. He bats cleanup, while No. 3 hitter Nelson Westwood hit .453. Together they help make the lineup potent enough to average 7.8 runs per game.
The Panthers will likely counter with senior Luke Carter on the mound. It is Carter’s turn in a solid three-man rotation that includes two more aces in senior Jacob Digiacomo and junior Matt Thompson. And if Saegertown gets a good lead, head coach Tim Crum can save his starters by going to Austin Scere or Luke Basko to eat relief innings.
Just how good has the pitching been for Saegertown? Take away the two losses to open the season in which they allowed 19 runs, and Saegertown gave up just 20 run over the last 19 games — all wins.
Offensively, the Panthers have been a juggernaut.
Giving up an average of 1.05 runs per game is going to win you a lot of games. But when you are scoring 201 runs (10.58 per game), you most likely are going to win them all. Led by Carter, Stephen Sada, Tyler Walters ... heck, from top to bottom the team is full of hitters.