Tiger frosh helps pitch team into state title game – Altoona Mirror

Jun 11, 2024
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski Hollidaysburg’s Paul Wedel (right) congratulates left fielder Ty Szynal on his inning ending catch.
By Michael Boytim
mboytim@altoonamirror.com
ENOLA — When Hollidaysburg freshman Vince Boland was warming up for the Golden Tigers in their quarterfinal game against Penn-Trafford, some members of the opposing team questioned if he was even old enough to play varsity baseball due to his diminutive build.
When his time came to shine in Monday’s PIAA Class 5A high school baseball semifinal game against District 12 champion Monsignor Bonner, Boland came up huge.
Hollidaysburg, vying for its first appearance in a state baseball final, led by three runs with two outs in the seventh inning — but the bases were loaded after a tiring Carson Kensinger reached his PIAA-mandated pitch limit.
Boland got the call and walked the first batter he faced to bring the tying run into scoring position and Division I Rider commit Austin Cannon to the plate. Cannon, who hit a three-run home run for Bonner in the quarterfinals and drove a ball to the fence earlier in Monday’s semifinal, struck out swinging to set off a celebration and send a stream of Hollidaysburg players coming out of the dugout to mob Boland, who was trying his best to outrun his teammates before they caught him against the dugout fence following the Tigers’ 3-1 victory at Clifford D. Bryner Field at Clarence Walters Stadium.
“After our game against Penn-Trafford some people were calling him an eighth grader,” Kensinger said. “He might be a little small, but he gets the job done and throws hard for his size. He’s a great pitcher, and he’s a great teammate that fits right in.”
Boland knew prior to Monday’s game that if Kensinger ran out of pitches, the PIAA playoff limit is 105 per game, that his number would be called.
“I was told a couple days ago that I would be coming in if Carson ran out of pitches,” Boland said. “I was pumped, actually, I was very excited. I love dealing with those kinds of situations. Coming in when I’m needed the most is my favorite part of the game, and it’s why I love it.”
Kensinger was spectacular for the fourth straight postseason start and improved to 10-0 this season. He’s earned playoff victories over Central Mountain, Obama Academy, Franklin Regional and now a Monsignor Bonner team that featured five players headed to Division I baseball programs and nine players overall who will be playing collegiately next season.
He allowed just six hits and the one earned run but needed a little help to finish Monday’s game off from a player who wasn’t even on the varsity roster at the start of the season.
“(Boland) started out at jayvee, and we called him up because he proved he could get varsity hitters out,” Hollidaysburg coach Jon Szynal said. “When Carson was up against the pitch count there, the plan was with Vince’s slider, we felt it was a good matchup for us, and that’s why we brought him in.”
Hollidaysburg will play Governor Mifflin, the District 3 runner-up, in the state championship game at Penn State University’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Friday at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s surreal, and it’s everything you wish for as a high school player,” Kensinger said. “We have one final game, and we have to put everything toward it, healthy or unhealthy. It means everything to this team, and I fully believe we’ll take whoever we get.”
Kensinger’s stellar start came for the most part on just one good foot.
Bradey Michaels led off the top of the third inning with a single and went to second on a heads up play by Ty Syznal. The No. 9 hitter was asked to put down a bunt, but when he saw Monsignor Bonner third baseman Jaxon Kehoe charging on the play, he lofted the bunt over his head into no-man’s-land for a single to put two runners on and no outs.
After two outs, Kensinger was hit by a pitch in the foot to load the bases, and Cayden Gibbons worked a walk to bring the first run of the game across the plate.
Five pitches later, Drew Banks hit a single up the middle to score Szynal and Kensinger and make it 3-0.
“The bunt — that kid made a great push bunt by our third baseman,” Monsignor Bonner coach Steve DeBarberie said. “Our pitcher lost a little control after that and walked in a run. They had a big single after that.”
Kensinger shook off the pain and returned to the mound in the bottom of the inning but admitted after the game that he wasn’t so sure he would be able to last the rest of the contest.
“My foot is in excruciating pain to be honest,” Kensinger said. “I was battling it all game. I didn’t really know if I was going to be able to go. When I got hit, I didn’t really feel it, but when I got to first base, I couldn’t put weight on it. We taped it up and iced it, and I was able to keep going, but I’m not practicing tomorrow.”
Banks’ hit off Friars starter Johnny Ortegae turned out to decide the game.
“I went down in the count early. He was throwing a lot of fastballs,” Banks said. “He was a pretty good pitcher. I was looking fastball, and I got one and put it right back up the middle. I was drowned in excitement. It was one of the best feelings I have had in a long time.”
Kensinger pitched out of some trouble in the bottom of the inning when C.J. Nocella walked and Sergio Hernandez hit a sun-aided double with one out. The senior left-hander got Kehoe to pop out and Michael Coleman on a flyout to end the inning.
“That was huge,” Szynal said. “When he’s on the mound and there’s two guys on or bases loaded, we still call the same three pitches. We don’t change anything with him, because he’s that good. He can throw all those pitches for strikes, and we have full faith in him.”
Hollidaysburg got runners into scoring position in the fourth and sixth innings, but Bonner relief pitcher Jack Redding got out of both jams unscathed.
The Friars left two runners on in the bottom of the sixth and the bases loaded in the final inning. The Philadelphia Catholic League powerhouse lost in the PIAA semifinal round for the fourth consecutive season.
“Hats off to their pitcher,” DeBarberie said. “He kept us off balance all game. We had opportunities and runners in scoring position what felt like a lot of innings, but we just couldn’t get the big hit. In every battle, he came out on top in those situations.”
Kensinger called a long playoff run for the Golden Tigers following his team’s District 6 championship win over Central Mountain.
“I just knew it was going to happen,” Kensinger said. “I just had full confidence every game that we were going to do the job, and there was never a doubt if I’m on the mound or not on the mound that we’re going to get the job done. This team has a bond that will go on well past this season.”
Szynal appreciated his senior’s confidence.
“I knew we were playing well and what a fierce competitor he is, but I’m not sure I believed it 100 percent, but I was on board with it,” Szynal said. “He has taken us on a ride here, and everyone else has bought in. It’s been the same recipe we have been winning with — pitching, defense and timely hitting.”
Michaels and Bonner’s Irv Fisher were the only two players that had two hits, and Gibbons had the go-ahead RBI for Hollidaysburg in its third-straight PIAA playoff win.
Hollidaysburg has won two PIAA team championships in school history, a boys state golf title in 2007 and in boys doubles tennis in 2003.
“I can’t even describe it, because it’s never been done at Hollidaysburg, ever,” Banks said. “We’re going to go (to Penn State) and try and win it for our school.”
HOLLIDAYSBURG (3): Hileman cf 300, Karageanes 1b 401, Kensinger p-dh 310, Boland p 000, Gibbons c 301, Bell cr 000, Banks 3b 401, Steiner ss 300, Hockey 2b 200, Michaels rf 212, Szynal lf 211. Totals–26-3-6.
MONSIGNOR BONNER (1): Kehoe 3b 300, Lockhart pr 000, Coleman rf 400, Bryan c 201, Cannon 1b 400, Fisher cf 302, Carr ss 300, Nocella lf 110, Ortegae p 000, Redding p 000, Friel dh 301, Hernandez 2b 201. Totals–25-1-5.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Hollidaysburg 003 000 0 — 3 6 0
Monsignor Bonner 000 000 0 — 1 5 0
E–None. DP–Hollidaysburg 1. LOB–Hollidaysburg 8; Monsignor Bonner 10. 2B–Hernandez. RBI–Banks 2, Gibbons; Bryan. SAC–Michaels. HBP–Kensinger (by Ortegae); Szynal (by Ortegae); Nocella (by Kensinger); Kehoe (by Kensinger).
PITCHING
Hollidaysburg: Kensinger (W)–6 2/3IP, 6H, 3BB, 2HBP, 3K, 1R, 1ER, 105 pitches; Boland (S)–1/3IP, 0H, 1BB, 1K, 0R, 0ER, 14 pitches.
Monsignor Bonner: Ortegae (L)–3 1/3IP, 4H, 1BB, 2HBP, 6K, 3R, 3ER, 70 pitches; Redding–3 2/3IP, 2H, 1BB, 1K, 0R, 0ER, 44 pitches.
Umpires: Jake Slagle (HP); Joe Reed (1B); Dave Miller (2B); Doc Petry (3B).
Records: Hollidaysburg (17-5); Monsignor Bonner (17-9)
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