For St. Joseph's Prep, a solid postseason run came to an end against a pitcher who repeatedly painted the outside corner with his fastball and flirted with a no-hitter.
Parkland's Andrew Kulp, a righthander, retired 18 of the first 19 batters he faced as the Trojans pinned a 6-2 defeat on the Hawks in a PIAA Class AAAA semifinal playoff yesterday afternoon at Spring-Ford.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Kulp took a perfect game into the top of the fifth inning, when he plunked leadoff man Jeff Lynch with a 1-0 pitch. He whiffed seven of the Prep's first nine batters and finished with 11 strikeouts.
"The fastball was working real well for me, especially in the early innings," Kulp said. "Their hitters weren't really catching up to it, so I stayed with it as much as I could."
In the state championship game, scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at Blair County Ballpark in Altoona, Parkland (21-6) will take on North Penn, the winner of yesterday's other semifinal.
Pinch-hitter Bobby Della Polla broke up Kulp's no-hitter by opening the seventh with a single. Catcher Ray Toto followed with a home run to left field. From there, two groundouts sandwiched Kulp's 11th strikeout.
Kulp, bound for Liberty University, mixed a fastball, slider, and curveball. The senior is 8-0 with an ERA just over 2.00 and 74 strikeouts in 601/3 innings. Against the Prep, he threw 82 pitches, 57 for strikes.
With three first-inning errors - two fielding and one throwing - the Hawks (16-9) put themselves in a 3-0 hole. The District 12 champions, who overcame three defensive gaffes in a 2-1 quarterfinal win over West Chester East, added a throwing miscue in the fourth.
"When you play good teams and make mistakes like this, you don't get those runs back," Prep coach Chris Rupertus said. "But those kinds of things happen. That's the game of baseball."
With one out in the third, after Luke Jaindl's two-run single up the middle made it 6-0, starter Kevin Gillen gave way to fellow righthander Pat Carbone. Gillen, the Catholic League Red Division's most valuable player, posted seven wins against two losses this season.
Of the defensive sloppiness behind him, Gillen, bound for Johns Hopkins, said: "Errors are part of the game. I didn't lose focus or anything because of what happened early on."
Parkland's six runs (three earned) vs. Gillen came on four hits. The Trojans' only hit in a three-run first was a two-out RBI single to left by their No. 6 batter.
The Prep, after losing to Neumann-Goretti in a league semifinal, was granted new life when the Saints beat arch-rival La Salle in the title game. It capitalized on the second chance by winning four straight.
"They overachieved," Rupertus said. "This may not be the most talented group to ever come through St. Joe's Prep, but it was the hardest-working and most-coachable squad I ever had."
St. Joseph's Prep 000 000 2 - 2 2 4
Parkland 312 000 x - 6 5 0
WP: Andrew Kulp. LP: Kevin Gillen. HR: SJP-Ray Toto.