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Zellin slam sends Salisbury to final

With Salisbury trailing 5-3 with one out in the bottom of the seventh and the bases loaded, Falcon head coach Justin Aungst had two words of advice for Jake Zellin: “be aggressive.”

The senior outfielder took the words to the plate with him and did just what his coach advised.

He jumped on a first-pitch fastball and lifted a long, high fly ball over the left field fence approximately 335-feet from home plate to give Salisbury a 7-5 win and a spot in the District 11 championship, which also comes with a spot in the PIAA tournament that gets underway next week.

“I was looking for a fastball and just saw it down the middle and took it for a ride,” said Zellin of the aggressive swing that he put on the first pitch from Charlie Hahn of Allentown Central Catholic.

The Falcons certainly did not take the easy way to the win as they were down 5-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning.

They had a short-lived lead when Caleb Gonzalez walked in the bottom of the first and Tom Lovelidge and Jacob Bucchin followed with singles to make it 1-0.

Central Catholic came right back in the top of the second against starter Austin Spisszak to put a run on the board and tie the game.

The Vikings pushed another run across in the fourth and an error led to two unearned runs in the top of the fifth. Another miscue gave the Vikings their final run of the game in the bottom of the sixth with just two of their five runs being earned.

Salisbury had to deal with a couple of blown calls against them.

In the sixth, with a two-out rally starting, the Falcons had runners on second and third when Andrew Grejda lined a shot to right that appeared to have landed fair but was ruled foul. He returned to the plate and worked a walk to load the bases.

Nate Nunez delivered an infield single on a ball hit to short that took a bad hop and made it 5-2 before Gonzalez was back at the plate. It appeared that Gonzalez had been hit by a pitch, but the home plate umpire ruled it hit the bat. Gonzalez walked to force across another run for Salisbury to make it 5-3.

Weiland Park at DeSales University had six cameras around the ballpark for the game and with the benefit of looking at the video replays, both calls did go against Salisbury.

“I’m not going to blame an umpire or anything,” said Aungst. “I just think if you are going to make a call, make it right away and don’t wait until another coach or somebody else tells him what the call is. I just give credit to our guys in the dugout who fought until the end.”

Lovelidge came on in relief in the top of the seventh and struck out the side, allowing just a two-out single to Cole Cook in the inning to keep the score at 5-3.

“I was so pumped up to go out there and keep us within two because we have come back all season and I knew we could do it again,” said Lovelidge. “Countless times this season we’ve been down, but we battled and kept an aggressive mindset at the plate. As the game went on we were seeing the ball better and if we saw a first-pitch fastball we wanted to drive it.”

In the seventh, Owen Fogel reached on an error and Brady Leiner came on to pinch-run for him at first. Spisszak then lined a single to right to move Leiner to third and a walk to Michael Stauffer loaded the bases for Zellin’s heroics.

“We just had to stay confident and after working so hard to get this opportunity, we just didn’t want to waste it,” said Zellin. “We didn’t get what we wanted in leagues, but we have a second chance in districts.”

The Falcons fell to Wilson in the semifinal round of the Colonial League playoffs before heading to districts in the 3A classification.

The Falcons now face Saucon Valley, the defending 3A champion, in the finals. The Panthers knocked off top seed Northwestern in the quarterfinals and then beat Pine Grove 11-3 in the other semifinal game to advance to the championship game. Salisbury has not won a district championship since 2013 when they were in the 2A classification.

PRESS PHOTOS BY LINDA ROTHROCK Salisbury senior Jake Zellin (above), seen here during a midseason game against Catasauqua, hit a walk-off grand slam in last week's District 11 semifinal to help the Falcons advance to the title game and the state playoffs. Caleb Gonzalez (right) is greeted at the plate after scoring the first run of last week's District 11 Class 3A baseball semifinal.
PRESS PHOTO BY LINDA ROTHROCK Caleb Gonzalez is greeted at the plate after scoring the first run of last week's District 11 Class 3A baseball semifinal.
PRESS PHOTO BY LINDA ROTHROCK Owen Fogel slides back into first base during last week's playoff win over Central Catholic.