PHOTO: Gabe Pietryka is congratulated by head coach Bill Zalewski after one of his two home runs for Abington Heights in Monday’s state tournament opener. (Zachary Allen Photo)
With each step of the postseason, the Abington Heights offense appears to be getting stronger.
Gabe Pietryka led the way Monday as the Comets opened the state tournament with their highest-scoring effort in more than two months.
Pietryka hit home runs in consecutive innings and drove in five runs as Abington Heights defeated Cocalico, 12-5, in a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 5A first-round baseball game at Schautz Stadium in Dunmore.
A once-struggling offensive team is now piling up the runs as the Comets head into the state quarterfinals for the fourth time in a 13-year stretch that began with the state championship team of 2009. Abington Heights (14-6) will face Manheim Central (24-2), a 5-2, first-round winner over Strath Haven, Thursday at 6 p.m. to complete a tripleheader at DeSales University in Central Valley.
Pietryka’s game-breaking, three-run homer with none out in the bottom of the fifth gave the Comets a 9-4 lead. He added a two-out, two-run homer to right field in the sixth inning to make it 12-4.
Abington Heights pulled out a Lackawanna League Division 1 title, but it was not easy as the team continued an offensive slump.
The Comets scored just 13 runs in the final 7 regular-season games, a four-game losing streak followed by a trio of low-scoring wins.
The trend continued into the District 2-4 Class 5A Subregional quarterfinals, a 1-0 victory at Shikellamy.
Runs have been much easier to come by since.
The Comets defeated Wallenpaupack, 8-5, in the semifinals, downed top-seeded North Pocono, 9-1, in the championship game, then scored a dozen runs Monday.
Michael Show tripled, single, drove in two runs and scored twice.
Matt Show, Mike Stanton and Gavin LaCoe also had two hits and more. Matt Show scored three times. Stanton scored twice and drove in a run. LaCoe drove in two.
Scott Gilbert walked and Stanton singled to left to begin the fifth. Pietryka followed with a home run to right field.
Gilbert struck out the side in the top of the sixth and the Comets put the game away in the bottom of the inning.
Matt Show singled, stole second and scored on a Gilbert single before Pietryka completed the scoring with his second home run.
Gilbert picked up his third playoff pitching win, finishing in double figures in strikeouts for the seventh time this season. He fanned 13 in 5 innings while allowing 4 runs on 5 hits and four walks.
Michael Show got the next five outs before Noah O’Malley struck out the final batter to finish off the combined six-hitter.
Photo Gallery: Pictures from Monday’s Abington Heights-Cocalico playoff game. https://nepasportsnation.com/abington-heights-cocalico-photo-gallery/.