By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
SLIPPERY ROCK — Everybody believes Sharon High’s baseball team is unbeaten, but Tigers’ taskmaster Bill Dorfi disagrees.
“At the beginning of the year I told them, ‘Our last game (of 2007) we lost, so when we started out this season we were, pretty much, oh-and-one right off the bat,” Dorfi declared.
For the record, Sharon surged into the PIAA Class AA Western Regional championship game by virtue of Friday’s 11-7 victory over Seton-LaSalle. Sharon (21-0) will meet Burrell — a 4-3 winner over Bishop McCort — at 4 p.m. Monday at North Allegheny High School.
Hickory, however, had its season halted in the opener of the twin bill at Slippery Rock University’s Jack Critchfield Park, as Trinity toppled the Hornets 15-6 in the AAA commonwealth quarterfinals.
ä Sharon 11, Seton-LaSalle 7 — Sharon’s season ended almost exactly a year ago to the day when it was slam-dunked by Seton-LaSalle 15-3 in 5 innings in Erie. Dorfi didn’t deny retribution was part of his squad’s pre-game preparation.
“We talked quite a bit; we’ve been talking all year, actually. ... the kids have been talking about ‘LaSalle’ all year. We tell ’em, ‘Try not to get ahead of yourselves,’ but it’s tough to not want a piece of them,” Dorfi admitted.
Sharon’s 7-run 4th frame broke open a 1-0 pitchers’ duel between Tigers’ righty Todd Rearick and Seton-LaSalle right-hander Patric Capatolla.
The 2nd of Dustin Norcross’ team-leading trio of hits, a pair of walks drawn by Zach Kepple and Sammy Schweiss, Zach Anderson’s sac fly, Rearick’s run-scoring double and Alex Senak’s RBI-triple, plus a pair of Rebels’ errors, highlighed the uprising.
However the Rebels (20-2) responded with a 5-run 5th. Tyler Trainor’s 2-run single and Zach Galasso’s 2-run double, plus 2 Tigers’ errors, accounted for the Rebels’ rally. A nightmarish 35-pitch inning for Rearick — who retired 12 of the first 14 hitters he faced — ended with the Tigers clawing to an 8-5 edge.
Sharon secured some insurance in the 6th stanza, however, as Rearick ripped a triple, and Senak, Gary Revale and Norcross contributed run-scoring singles.
Depite permitting Chris Weigold’s 2-run round-tripper to start the 7th and back-to-back 2-out infield singles by Chris Selimbene and David Cortese, Senak secured the save by hauling in Trainor’s game-ending popup.
“I’m very pleased. If I could script a perfect game, minus those couple errors we had, that would’ve been the perfect game,” assessed Dorfi, who said this particular PIAA playoffs pursuit is the best in the school’s diamond annals.
Led by Norcross’ 3 hits and 2 apiece by Rearick, Senak, Revale and Schweiss, Sharon stroked a dozen safeties, including Kepple, who connected for another. Rearick and Revale both tallied twice.
“When one person gets ahold of the ball, the team just feeds off of it and it’s contagious,” Norcross said. “We just go up there and face the pitcher and we’re not scared of anyone; we can hit anybody they put out there.”
“One-through-nine we’re strong. I think we are the strongest team I’ve seen year this year,” Dorfi said.
Notes: In 5 frames Rearick recorded 87 pitches (52 strikes) and allowed 5 runs on 4 hits, 4 walks and a hit batsman, while whiffing 4. Senak’s 2-inning stint saw him require 42 pitches. “Like I’ve said many times before: Alex has carried us all year,” Dorfi praised. ... Salimbene and Derek Law led Seton-LaSalle with 2 hits each. ... Capatolla’s line included 73 pitches (42 strikes) in 3ì innings during which he yielded 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks. He struck out 1.
ä Trinity 15, Hickory 6 — The Hornets allowed 5-2 and 6-5 leads dissipate into a 7-6 deficit entering the 6th. From there Hickory became unhinged on both sides of the ball.
In the top half a pair of fly outs to David Saluga sandwiched Joe Havrilak’s single. However Hickory starter Tyler Armstrong, on a 2-2 pitch, hit DH Craig Gnagey with a curve ball. Then Alex Kazmierczak crushed a 2-run triple, extending Trinity’s lead to 9-6.
Hickory’s home half of the 6th stanza started with back-to-back base hits by Lukas Gurrera and David Schafer and a walk to Jaymee Shephard issued by Hillers’ reliever Alex Frey, loading the bases with no out.
But Garem Ream’s rocket to straightaway center field was caught by Havrilak, and Schafer — thinking the ball was going to drop in for a hit — broke from 2nd base and easily was doubled off. Evan Anzio then grounded out, ending the scoreless inning.
Trinity (17-7) took control by tallying 5 runs in the 7th stanza, highlighted by RBI-doubles from Graham Cowieson, Sean McKnight and Gnagey and Evan Bukowski’s run-scoring single, all off reliever Jordan Wilds.
“That sequence right there probably wins the game,” Hornets’ headmaster Gary Hinkson admitted in regard to the 6th. “We didn’t play, overall, as well as we can play. But you’ve got to give them credit. They’re a good ballclub.”
Armstrong (9-1) endured his toughest outing of an otherwise spectacular season as he was reached for a dozen hits and 10 runs in 5ì innings. Sixty-four of his 87 pitches went for strikes, as he walked 1 and whiffed 1.
“I kept thinking (Armstrong) would settle in and our offense would take control, but it didn’t happen,” Hinkson lamented.
The Hillers hammered Hickory hurlers for 19 hits, led by Kevin Podolek’s 4-for-5 plate performance, Cowienson and Preston Linck, both of whom lent 3 hits, and 2 apiece from Bukowski, Kazmierczak and Frey. Bukowski, Trinity’s starting pitcher, knotted the count at 2 with a 3rd-inning solo shot off Armstrong.
For Hickory (20-2), Gurrera, Shephard and Anzio evenly divided a half-dozen hits. Shephard compensated for a 1st-inning error by ripping a run-scoring single in the home half of the frame, then belted a solo shot to the right of the 375-foot marker in left-center field in the 4th off southpaw Frey. He scored a trio of times, while Taylor Englebaugh added a 2-run two-bagger to the left-center field gap as the 1st hitter to face Frey in the 3rd.
Armstrong, Schafer, Englebaugh, Ream and Brian Szabo are Hickory’s seniors.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my guys than I am,” Hinkson said. “We battled; it just didn’ work out. ... The seniors, I couldn’t be happier. They led this team on and off the field all this year. Last year they were a big part of the District 10 (championship) team, all five of them. They’re great students, too. I’m real proud of them.”
Notes: Almost every Trinity starter batted 5 times. McKnight, Bukowski, Podolek and Linck all tallied twice. Linck led the Hillers with 3 RBI, while Cowienson collected a pair, as did McKnight. ... With Hickory leading 2-1 in the 2nd, Shephard speared McKnight’s liner headed up the middle, then Englebaugh eased to the right-center field gap to haul in Havrilak’s liner. ... Bukowski was belted for 6 hits and 5 runs, a walk, a hit batsman (plus 2 KO’s) on 49 pitches (34 strikes) in 2êinnings, but the fireballing Frey earned the win with 4ì innings of 1-run relief. He threw 96 pitches (57 strikes), and fanned 4. Trinity 2nd-year head coach Levi Bristor said Bukowski ended the regular season with a 0.70 ERA, while Frey’s was 1.81.
By Ed Farrell