Wild finish expected in Section 5-AAAA baseball
Three is the magic number for baseball teams in Section 5-AAAA this week as all but one team in the division had a chance to clinch a playoff spot.
Before the rains washed out action at the top of the week, three teams—Canon-McMillan, Peters Township and Mt. Lebanon—were tied for first place with 5-2 slates. Even Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair at 3-4 entertained postseason plans.
“This is a huge week in the section,” said USC manager Jerry Malarkey. “We have to win all three and hope for some help from the other teams to make the playoffs. This section is as balanced as it has ever been. There will possibly be two very good teams that do not make the playoffs.”
Peters Township skipper Joe Maize knows about not making the playoffs on the last pitch of the last game of the regular season. Since it has happened to the Indians recently, Maize reminded his players of all the scenarios facing squads in the division.
“This is going to be a rough week,” said Maize, not even considering the possibility of rain on a daily basis. Already at the top of the week, games were canceled because of inclement weather, throwing a pause into playoff plans.
“I told my kids they have a great opportunity,” Maize continued. “If we win all three games, then we win the section title. If we lose three, then we are out of the playoffs.”
In addition to Monday’s postponed contest against Bethel Park, the Indians were scheduled to visit USC April 30 at Boyce-Mayview Complex and to host the Big Macs at 7 p.m. May 2 at Peterswood Park.
The Indians wind up the regular season at Trinity and Beth-Center May 5 and 8 before challenging Baldwin at 7 p.m. May 9 at Peterswood Park. The Highlanders, former section opponents, are the No. 1 ranked Quad-A club and leader in Section 2-AAAA with 6-1 mark. Overall Baldwin was 9-1 to start the week.
Meanwhile, Lebo had games scheduled this week against the Big Macs, at Brashear and home against USC at 4 p.m. May 2 at Wildcat Field.
Wildcat Field proved unfriendly for Peters. The Indians succumbed to the Blue Devils, 9-2, last week, thus forcing the deadlock at the top of the division.
“We had a great opportunity to put people behind the eight ball,” Maize said, “but we let down. Pat (McCloskey, the Lebo manager) did a great job of getting his team ready to play. They were excellent on offense and defense. Their pitchers did a nice job and we committed four errors, three of them mental mistakes.”
Defense, however, as well as good pitching has been PT’s forte this spring while offense has been one of Canon-Mac’s primary strengths. The Big Macs have hit their way into first place and hope to remain there after games against Lebo, Bethel and Peters this week.
While Canon-Mac outslugged Lebo, 15-14, in its first encounter, the Big Macs succumbed to BP and PT for their league losses. Both games were extra-inning affairs lost by one tally, 4-3 and 8-7, respectively.
“We were very fortunate to beat Canon-Mac,” explained Maize of the wild pitch that allowed the decisive run.
The Big Macs’ pre-season success in Myrtle Beach opened Maize’s eyes. Canon-Mac won three games, two by nine or more runs.
“We knew they would be good,” Maize said. “Canon-Mac can really swing the bats. They are solid one through nine in the line-up. Plus, Frank (Zebrasky) has them believing in themselves and in each other. They don’t think they can be beat.”
Tied last week, 2-2, the Big Macs exploded for three runs in the fifth and one in the sixth to beat USC, 6-4. Connor Coleman drove in a run when he walked with the bases loaded. Chandler Palyas, Anthony Boggio, Teagan Piechnick and Jared Beach drove in the other earned runs. Dustin Bernardi smacked two doubles and two singles.
For the Panthers, Gannon Rooney had a two-run single while Ben Haus and Chas Mertz drove in the other runs.
Piechnick and Beach are Canon-Mac’s big guns while Haus has excelled for the Panthers.
With batting averages of .564, .539 and .500, Piechnick, Haus and Beach ranked among the top hitters in the WPIAL.
Piechnick has smashed six homers, driven in 18 runs and scored 22 times. Beach has 22 RBIs.
While Haus leads USC with 18 RBI, Adam Kraskey and Tony Pezzone followed with 16 each. Austin Raeder has driven in 12. Kevin Marthinsen, Mason McGuire and Haus have scored 17, 15 and 12 runs.
Meanwhile the Panthers flexed their muscles this past weekend, blasting South Fayette, 17-3.
Haus socked two hits and drove in four runs. Rooney smacked four hits in five plate appearances. He and Raeder drove in three runs each as did Pezzone, who collected two hits.
Bethel Park should not be counted out of the playoff race as the Hawks already have wins against the Big Macs and Indians in the first half of the season.
Noting that all five of his team’s losses have been by one run, Tony Fisher said his Hawks have been in every game. “It’s a battle every game,” he added. “The section is as even as I have seen it. We hope our execution improves and we make the playoffs.”
Thanks to Corey Augenstein and Joe Zufall, the Hawks are in the hunt. Augenstein leads the pitching staff with 23 strikeouts. On offense, he has driven in 10 runs. Zufall is 3-0 after the win against the Big Macs. At the plate, Harry Siwik, Carmen Jasante and Luke Hahey each tagged two hits, including doubles.
BP holds the trump card against the Indians should they beat Peters a second time this season. A win over the Hawks sends PT into the playoffs. “But, if we lose twice to them and are tied with them, then we would be the odd man out,” Maize said.
“If everything falls into place though, Friday’s game against Canon-Mac could possibly be for the section or a battle just to get into the playoffs for both teams.”
In Section 3-AAA, Keystone Oaks moved into playoff position when the Golden Eagles edged McGuffey and South Fayette toppled Waynesburg Central, 3-1. The second game of KO’s doubleheader with the Highlanders was postponed on April 28.
The Golden Eagles, who improved to 4-3 in the section and 6-6 overall, were scheduled to host South Fayette at 4:30 p.m. April 30 at Point Park Field in Green Tree and visit Waynesburg May 2 before wrapping up the regular season with three exhibition contests against Ringgold (May 3), Carlynton (May 6) and Obama Academy (May 8).
Meanwhile, the Lions improved to 6-2 in the division and 9-6 overall with the win against the Raiders. Hayden Orler hurled the complete game. He struck out nine, walked three and scattered four hits.
Offensively, Tyler Godwin leads the Lions with a .543 batting average. He has driven in 19 runs and scored 14 times.
The Lions close out section play at Chartiers Valley. The first pitch is set for 4:15 p.m. May 2 at Woodville Field in Bridgeville. The Lions, who will visit Moon May 3 to close out the regular season, trail the undefeated Colts in the league standings.
The Colts started the week at the top of Section 3-AAA with a 7-0 record and an 11-3 overall mark. They were scheduled to play Trinity and McGuffey before squaring off against the Lions. The Colts finish regular season action May 5 against Bethel Park.
SLS was tied for second place with Quaker Valley. Both were 8-2 before April 28’s encounter was rained out. South Side Beaver led the league (Section 1-AA) with 9-1 mark. SLS was 10-3 overall at the top of the week. The Rebels had games remaining at New Brighton (April 30) and Brentwood (May 5) and against Carlynton at 3:30 p.m. May 2 at the Brookline Community Field.
Liam Sweeney and David Boehme have played key roles in the Rebels’ success this season. They are the team’s top hitters with batting averages of .485 and .484 respectively. Sweeney tops the team with 17 RBI followed by Andrew Lease with 10.
Char-Houston is 7-3 and third in Section 2-AA behind Brownsville and Washington, which are both 8-2 in the division and 10-4 overall. Bucs are 9-3 overall.
Rain washed out their game April 28 against Washington. The Bucs are to visit Bentworth today (April 30). They close with Charleroi May 2 and Fort Cherry at Allison Elementary Field No. 1 at 3:30 p.m. May 5.
Against the Rangers, C-H looks to avenge last Saturday’s 14-6 loss. In the defeat, the Bucs’ second in succession, Jake Jones and Alex Ferrari doubled.
Meanwhile, Bishop Canevin (5-2, 7-3), thanks to the hitting of Giovanni Demarzo, started the week in second place in Section 2-A, behind undefeated Serra Catholic (7-0, 10-3). Demarzo was batting .650 with 10 RBI for the Crusaders.