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Hornets’ run ends in PIAA quarterfinal

The Emmaus varsity baseball season certainly didn’t end how the Hornets wanted it to last week with a tough 12-0 loss to perennial District 2 power Hazleton in the PIAA Class 6A quarterfinals. Still, it was a tremendous season for The Hornets (22-6), who were able to collect numerous team accolades on the way to the state tournament.

The key to success for Emmaus this season was its scorching hot start. The Hornets started out 12-0, shooting to the top of the District 11 6A power ratings.

“We were able to really hit the ground running because of our veteran leadership and experience returning,” said Emmaus head coach Jeremy Haas. “We had 10 guys coming back, with about seven of those guys playing significant innings for us last year. When you have that much talent and experience returning, as a team you can really focus on the micro rather than the macro and fine tune a lot of different things. I think that was also a big reason for our good start.”

The Hornets’ veteran group was especially impressive from the plate this season, with five seniors recording 15 or more RBIs. Tyler Lepage (.395, 22 RBIs), Dominick Chiego (.398, 20 RBIs), Anthony Viola (.343, 17 RBIs), Colin Foley (.338, 22 RBIs, 5 HR) and Luke Deschenes (15 RBIs, 4 HR) were all essential to Emmaus’ offensive attack. Junior Zach McEllroy (.388, 17 RBIs) and sophomore Josiah Williams (.333, 27 RBIs, 3 HR) were also significant contributors in the batter’s box.

While hitting was a definite strong point for the Hornets, Deschenes was equally imposing from the mound. He put together a historic pitching season for Emmaus, going 12-1 with an 1.15 ERA and 98 strikeouts.

The Hornets power at the plate paired with Deschenes’ dominating stuff from the mound helped Emmaus come away with their second consecutive Eastern Pennsylvania Conference championship this season.

“Winning an EPC title again this season was a goal for this team from the very beginning,” said Haas. “They really wanted to take home the gold at every level they could. They came into the year wanting to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke and they certainly accomplished that.”

Emmaus fell short of its second straight District 11 championship with a loss to Liberty in the title game, but bounced back in the state tournament with a big first-round win over District 1 champ Owen J. Roberts. In a 1-0 victory, Deschenes pitched a gem, throwing a complete-game shutout while LePage came through with a solo home run to help the Hornets advance.

“I was a little concerned going into that game, coming off the loss to Liberty in the district final. It was really one of their few setbacks in the last two years, but these guys responded,” said Haas. “From a coaching standpoint, I told many reporters and people that congratulated me after the game ‘I didn’t do anything today.’

“My staff and I, we just watched two seniors in Luke and Tyler do what they do best and do their thing. It was a really cool baseball game and we were able to come out on top.”

Forty-four wins and three titles is an impressive two-year run for any team, especially a team that competes in the challenging EPC.

“This is one of the most fun teams I have ever been around,” said Haas. “It is a group of guys that knew when to get down to business, but also when to have fun. This group won a lot of games over the past two seasons. It has been a team that has put together a legacy of raising the bar. I will certainly miss our seniors and I won’t forget the memories we all created.”

PRESS PHOTO BY CHUCK HIXSON Jaden Gallagher was one of seven Emmaus seniors that helped the team win 44 games, two league titles and a district title over the past two seasons.