Seton-La Salle falls in WPIAL final
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Steel Valley rallied for three runs and scored a 6-5 victory over Seton-La Salle in the WPIAL Class AA baseball championship game at Consol Energy Park in Washington. It was the first district title for the Ironmen, who were seeded No. 2 in the tournament and improved to 18-2 overall.
With two outs and a full count, Jesse Cantley singled and drove home Sam Ligeros with the winning run. One batter earlier, Bryce Varhola tagged a 3-2 pitch for a two-run single to tie the game at five runs apiece.
The uprising began when lead-off hitter Matt Hoesch reached base on an error. After Andrew Chuba grounded out to third baseman Nico Popa, winning pitcher Brandon Donovan reached base on another SLS fielding miscue. After Carson Rebel struck out the next batter, he walked Ligeros to load the bases, setting the stage for Varhola and Cantley.
“We had three ground balls. We (should have) had three outs,” said SLS manager Shawn Trainor. “We made mistakes and bad decisions. We did not get the outs. They deserved to win.”
Either team was a deserving champion as both battled back from adversity.
The Ironmen took the lead, 1-0, in the bottom of the second when Derek Morrison singled and advanced to third on Cantley’s double before scoring on a wild pitch. Steel Valley tacked on another run in the third when Sean McShane reached base on an error and scored on Chuba’s base hit.
Although Donovan had struck out five of the first nine batters he faced, the Rebels tagged him for four runs in the top of the fourth. With one out, Danzel McKinley-Lewis tripled. After David Boehme drew a free pass, Liam Sweeney tagged a run-scoring single. Boehme scored on Popa’s misplayed fielder’s choice. Rebel then drilled a two-run single before Donovan struck out the final two batters.
Donovan, who pitched 1-0 shutouts in two previous playoff games, finished with nine strikeouts. He scattered six hits and walked three.
“We had a big inning off a very good pitcher. We put the ball on the bat,” said Trainor. “We battled against a good pitcher. We just did not finish the game.”
SLS appeared to finish off the Ironmen in the top of the seventh. Designated hitter Matt Reinmund tagged his second single of the game to lead off the inning. After Matt Wilke’s sacrifice, Reinmund scored on a base hit by Lewis.
The Rebels had regained the run they had given up in the sixth. Steel Valley narrowed the gap, 4-3, when Ligeros doubled and scored after an error and a sacrifice fly by Mike Hoersch.
Until the seventh, Rebel held the Ironmen in check. The junior had allowed six hits. He finished with four strikeouts and only one walk, the one to Ligeros in the seventh.
Of the pitching effort, Trainor said, “[Carson] did what he was supposed to do.” When Trainor went to the mound after the Ironmen had tied the game, he asked him, ‘Do you want to put somebody in?’ He said, ‘No, I want to finish,’”
Despite the defeat, the Rebels are not finished. They begin PIAA championship play next week. Seton-La Salle is 15-6 overall.
“Win or lose, it’s always tough to get back up for the state playoffs,” said Trainor. “But, we are going to work hard and battle back,” he assured.”