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 Saturday, July 30, 1998

SPORTS

 C-3 


 

Cetronia endures to win Tri-Co playoff berth

Stahley's fires back from an 11-4 deficit, but Cetronia's Warmkessel contains the blaze.



Of The Morning Call


 

Jeremy Warmkessel wouldn't mind following in the footsteps of his father, Barry, and becoming an Allentown City fireman one day.

If Wednesday's special one-game Tri-County League playoff is any indication, Warmkessel will make a good fireman.

He doused a raging inferno in Scherersville, tossing 3-1/3 innings of scoreless relief to nail down Cetronia's 12-10 hotly contested win over Stahley's.

The come-from-behind victory capped a strong stretch run by Cetronia, which won nine of its last 11 games just to set up the one-game playoff to determine the Tri-Co's final playoff entry.

The Longhorns will play North Division champ Lehigh Township in a best-of-three series beginning Saturday in Berlinsville.

"This team has a lot of character," said Warmkessel, a 1992 Allen High grad. "We were 8-13 at one point, and now we're 18-15 and in the playoffs. Last year, we had to play an extra game to get into the playoffs, and then we went on to knock off the No. 2 seed, Center Valley. Maybe we can do it again."

If Cetronia had failed to make the postseason, Warmkessel would have felt partly responsible.

"All year long I've been giving up big hits," he said. "I've blown three leads in the seventh inning and taken the losses. So it was real nice to get this one."

Warmkessel relieved Hassan DeJesus in the bottom of a wild fourth inning.

In the top half of the frame, Cetronia scored five runs on just two hits to take an 11-4 lead. The big blows of the inning were DeJesus' two-run double and 48-year-old Mike Witkowski's two-run triple.

Tempers flared between player-managers -- Cetronia's George Horn and Stahley's Matt Hlay --when three Longhorns were hit by pitches in the inning.

Horn got angry after getting plunked with a pitch, even though it came with the bases loaded and forced in a run.

In the bottom half of the fourth, Stahley's used bats -- not fists -- to fight back. Joe Teresavage doubled in a run, and Mike Lutte's bases-loaded walk forced in another before Mookie Smith hit a grand slam to make it 11-10.

That's when Horn gave the ball to Warmkessel, who settled it down by retiring six hitters in a row.

Stahley's didn't go quietly in the seventh, however.

With two out, singles by Brian Polaha and Lutte and a walk to Billy Burch loaded the bases and brought lead-off hitter Teresavage to the plate.

With the count full and darkness and fog making it hard for everyone to see, Teresavage bounced sharply to second baseman Mike Merkle for the game's final out and the last out of Stahley's season.

"I threw a fastball because I had the most control of that pitch," Warmkessel said. "I didn't want to walk him. If he was going to beat me, he was going to have to get a hit."

Warmkessel whooped it up when the game was over.

"We have a lot of history with Stahley's ... on and off the field," he said. "It's a great rivalry."

Hlay was proud his club (17-16) didn't quit.

"Down 11-4, we battled back to the very last out," he said.

"But give them credit. They hit the ball hard. And that ageless wonder Witkowski (a former Stahley's player) really hurt us. You've got to know not to throw him a fastball. He got one and hit it hard."

Witkowski, a 1968 Dieruff High grad, had two hits and drove in three runs. He joined Merkle (grand slam), Pete Spisszak (three hits) and DeJesus (two hits, two RBIs) as the Longhorn offensive stars.

"Sure, I'm a little older than most of these guys, but you still want to rise to the occasion," Witkowski said. "I was only playing because Tommy Williams hurt his wrist. So I just wanted to go in there and do the job. This game is still a lot of fun to play."



keith.groller@mcall.com

  

From The Morning Call -- July 30, 1998

Copyright 1998, The Morning Call