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Scranton Prep eliminates Palisades from PIAA tournament


In the long term, Palisades’ defeat in Monday’s opening-round PIAA Class 3A state baseball game will be a significant line in their athletic history as being their first appearance in the tournament.

In the short term, it has the potential to be the first step in the elevation of the program.

The Pirates, who were coming off their first District 11 title, dropped an 11-3 decision to District Two runner-up Scranton Prep at Saucon Valley High School Monday afternoon.

Palisades finished with an overall record of 16-9, and the Pirates will graduate only three seniors, Jon De Nato and pitchers Will Guthier and Bela Pavlinsky, from the unit.

DeNato, who also was a member of the school’s district champion football squad, was grateful for both seasons. He went 2-for-4 against Scranton Prep, and he finished the year with a .449 average.

“It was a great year for me in sports,” said DeNato. “Baseball was my cherry on top. It’s not how I wanted to end the season, but I couldn’t have asked for more.

“Over the years, we have battled with many obstacles, but we also have pushed through them. I have an amazing team and coaches. They will be missed, but I know they will do well in the years to come.”

Head coach Gary Koenig watched his team fall behind 2-1 after one inning, and later 5-1 after four innings. He knew it might not be a good day for his team and junior starter Jaden Newton. The Pirates left five runners in scoring position.

“I really didn’t know what to expect because I knew very little of them (Scranton Prep),” said Koenig. “I was kind of surprised about how well they hit Jaden as well as they did.

“I thought Jaden threw well. He felt like he didn’t have his best stuff, but he battled through. If we hit and have Jaden on the mound, we should be able to win. We put the ball in play, and we didn’t have the timely hits.”

Newton, who sported a 10-1 record before the contest, also didn’t downplay Scranton Prep’s assault.

“It just wasn’t our day, and that team was very good,” said Newton, who went 4.2 innings and allowed seven runs. “They just handed it to us.

“I felt confident coming into today, but they got a couple of hits and kept going on like a rollercoaster. At times, I felt like I had stuff clicking, but it fell apart.”

Yet, Newton believed his team was destined for a strong finish after they went winless in an August tournament last summer after the regular season was canceled.

“We started 0-3 in a tournament last year, and it was a wake-up call,” he said. “But we worked all fall and winter, and we were ready in the spring. We lost our first game against Notre Dame, but we knew we had a lot of confidence.”

Junior shortstop Kyle McGrath, who hit .355 for the season, understood how important it was to establish their presence in the state game.

“Our coaches were preaching to us about getting out to a fast start,” said McGrath. “We had some weak at bats at the start.

“We had a good week of practice and came off the win over Notre Dame. We had everything going for us.”

McGrath and his teammates will miss the seniors, but he is confident about his team’s future chances.

“This is a great team, and most of us have been playing together since T-ball,” he added. “We’ll be fine next year.”

Koenig recognizes the impact of this season as the groundwork for a new foundation.

“This was a special group of seniors, and we will miss them,” he said. “But winning the first district title and going to states will go a long way for our kids.”