BOYERTOWN >> The winning run stood at third base and Nolan Bolton was up to bat.
The Souderton shortstop had popped up in his last at-bat but singled his first time up, so he was looking to make this plate appearance look more like the first than the second. Bolton worked a full count then got a curve ball that hung up in the zone.
He didn’t miss it, the run scored and Souderton won yet another close playoff game.
Post 234 topped Spring City 2-1 in a winner’s bracket game at the PA Legion state tournament Sunday afternoon at Boyertown.
“We knew we had to take a couple pitches in the end there,” Bolton said. “We knew if we could get a hit or someone on to start the inning, we could bunt them over and have someone come up with a key hit to get him in like we’ve done all season.”
Souderton won another close game thanks to another sterling pitching outing, this time from left-hander David Gulibon. Gulibon threw a complete game, not only saving more arms for Souderton, but keeping a pretty potent lineup in check.
“My whole approach was to throw first-pitch strikes and just get ahead,” Gulibon said. “I tried to keep my pitch count down and get ahead. I just wanted to keep throwing strikes and let them hit it, they were getting themselves out so that’s what I had to do all game.”
After a rough start to the game, loading the bags with no out in the first inning, Spring City’s Jake Skrocki threw a great game of his own. Skrocki only gave up three hits in a seven-inning outing, giving his team every chance to stay in the contest.
Bolton’s single in the first inning loaded the bags with no outs and even though Moses Clemens hit into a double play the next at-bat, it still scored Kyle Lennon for a 1-0 lead. Skrocki got a strikeout to end the frame, then another double play the next inning as he settled down
“That motivates us,” Spring City third baseman Pat Jucker said. “When you see your guy doing something like that, you just want to pick him up and do right by him.”
Jucker and Gulibon were actually teammates back in youth baseball but it had been a while since they shared the same field. The Spring City third baseman had one of just five hits Gulibon yielded all game but pointed out his team’s offense was able to make the most of it’s chances.
Gulibon, whose older brother Aaron also played for Souderton, cruised through the first three innings before Spring City threatened in the fourth. With Coy Walters at third and Jucker at second, Gulibon got a pop-up that third baseman Luke Taylor snared in foul ground before the southpaw rang up the third out on a swinging strike three to end the frame.
The Red Sox were finally able to crack through in the fifth when JC Reed’s two-out single to left plated Nick Price from second to knot the score at 1-1. Jucker pointed to a stellar defensive play by center fielder Tom Hughes in the bottom of the fifth as another key moment.
“When Tom threw that guy out at first, our dugout went crazy,” Jucker said. “After that, we all wanted to get going.”
Guilbon used just 34 pitches over the first three innings but 40 combined in the fourth and fifth so he entered the sixth at 74 total and facing an energized Spring City squad. He got the first out on one pitch, then needed just eight more to strike out the next two guys for a stabilizing 1-2-3 frame.
Even after a long high school and Legion season, Gulibon said his arm feels good and credited that to workouts, maintenance and just understanding what he needs to do at this point of the year. Plus, Taylor’s gritty seven inning outing on Saturday only served as motivation for Gulibon taking the hill Sunday.
The lefty totaled four strikeouts but also credited his defense’s work behind him.
“You’re a lot more confident having people like that behind you,” Gulibon said. “I’m used to a lot of errors so it feels great having people like that to back you up.”
Souderton found itself swinging into a lot of short at-bats after the first inning and as a result, only had one runner between the second and fifth frames. In the sixth, pinch-hitter Joe Santon started things off with a hard-hit ball down the third base line and his hustle out of the box forced an errant throw to put the leadoff man on base.
Kyle Lennon followed with a sac bunt and Luke Barnum a groundout, both also flying down the line to let Santone advance, bringing up Bolton in a big spot.
“He got me with the change-up the time before and his curveball, I knew he threw it hard but I wanted to see if he’d throw it to me with two strikes, he did, I sat on it and took it to left,” Bolton said. “I saw the shortstop was playing up the middle and I’d hit two balls that way so I knew if I turned on it, it’d be a base hit.”
Spring City faces Boyertown in an elimination game at 12:35 p.m. on Monday. Jucker said he and his teammates need to remember how well they’d been playing coming into states and how they responded in a similar situation earlier this year.
“We’ve played with our backs against the wall before,” Jucker said. “Back in league, we lost early and played from behind. We know we’re not out of it, but we also know we have a lot of work to do.”
Souderton returns for a 7:05 p.m. game on Monday against Swoyersville — a 3-0 winner over Hempfield East. Each passing game is new ground for Post 234 and the players aren’t ready to have things end just yet.
“We know we can win, we’ve been winning all year and if it’s a tight game, we can pull it out in the end,” Bolton said. “We just want to keep winning, that’s the main goal. We want to get to the next round, we don’t want to start losing and have to go home.”
Souderton 2, Spring City 1
SPRING CITY 000 010 0 – 1 5 0
SOUDERTON 100 001 x – 2 3 1
WP: David Gulibon. LP: Jake Skrocki. Multiple hits: S – Nolan Bolton 2-3