There will be no WPIAL title for the Bethel Park (15-4) baseball team.
Pine-Richland (17-4) made certain of that when the Rams decisively defeated the Black Hawks, 6-0, in a Class 6A semifinal game May 22 at Matulevic Field in Shaler.
The Black Hawks, however, still have hopes for a PIAA championship.
Bethel Park will battle North Allegheny, which lost to top-seed Penn-Trafford, 7-2, in the other semifinal, in the District 7 consolation contest set to determine the final Class 6A team to qualify for the state tournament.
The Black Hawks and Tigers are scheduled to play at 7 p.m. May 28 at Washington & Jefferson College’s field.
“We have to refocus,” said BP head coach Tony Fisher. “Whoever the opponent is in front of us we have to figure out a way to beat them and make the state tournament.”
In the WPIAL, BP had many teams figured out. The Black Hawks won the challenging Section 3 title with a 10-2 record. They mastered five other squads, including Seneca Valley in the playoffs. However, the Black Hawks could not defeat the talented Rams.
Pine-Richland features four NCAA Division I recruits. Center fielder Josh Johnson will play for Kent State. Shortstop J.D. Armstrong is bound for High Point University in North Carolina. Second baseman Troy LaNeve is committed to Vanderbilt. Catcher Matt Wood earned a scholarship to Penn State.
“Absolutely,” Fisher said. “Pine has a ton of talent and a very nice club. Coach (Kurt) Wolfe does a great job of keeping them motivated and grounded.”
From the first pitch to the final out, the Rams were all business.
They scored three runs on three hits to start the game. Wood walked before LaNeve was hit by a pitch. Johnson doubled, Josh Scherer singled and Armstrong tagged a sacrifice fly to center to drive in the runs.
The Rams tacked on two more runs in the fourth and a single run in the fifth.
In the fourth, Wood and LaNeve singled and swiped bases. Wood advanced to third on a passed ball. LaNeve scored on a misplayed ball hit to shortstop by Scherer.
In the fifth, Chase Vrabel reached base on an error. After stealing second, he scored on Wood’s base hit.
The Rams only outhit the Hawks, 9-7, but they came up with big defensive plays. They turned two double plays. One took the Hawks out of a potentially big inning.
With one out in the top of the second, Brandon Cole singled. Pinch runner Anthony Fontana moved to second on a wild pitch before Cooper Shoemaker and Anthony Chiccitt walked to load the bases. On David Kessler’s shallow fly ball out, Fontana raced home but the home-plate umpire ruled Wood had applied the tag and the inning ended on the double play.
“I thought we battled right back because we had bases loaded and I still feel strongly we had that run,” Fisher said.
“I thought we swung it well. The runs just don’t match the hits we put on the board,” he added. “Credit their kid though. He pitched out of some jams.”
Matt Schietroma pitched out of a jam in the fifth. Kessler led off with a walk and Bo Conrad and Eric Chalus followed with base hits, but again P-R pulled off a double play to thwart the opportunity. Additionally, Vrabel and Johnson had big catches in the outfield.
“We had some hard outs.Some balls that we hit well that turned into outs,” Fisher said. “Our approach to the plate was good. I thought we swung it well. But they are a very good defensive club.”
Shoemaker and Chalus swung it best. Both had two hits in the contest. Sean McGowan had the other single for the Black Hawks.
After picking up the win in relief against Seneca Valley the day prior, Chalus also gave the Black Hawks five strong innings. He struck out four. Shane Clunan pitched well in one inning of relief.