Colucci powers Neshannock to win, berth in PIAA title game
In between pitches, Neshannock coach Mike Kirkwood also tossed a few barbs at his cleanup hitter.
Maybe senior Don Colucci would need a pinch hitter Monday, the coach said, as the frustrated first baseman went hitless against him in Sunday’s practice.
For a day, Colucci stewed.
“I was getting real mad and couldn’t take it,” said Colucci, who focused that frustration into another offensive outburst for the hot-hitting Lancers. Colucci smashed two home runs and had four RBIs in Monday’s 7-2 victory over Quaker Valley in a PIAA Class AA semifinal at Chippewa Park.
“He was so frustrated after 30 or so swings,” said Kirkwood, who pitched from only 30 feet away to simulate the speed of Quaker Valley ace Tyler Garbee. “He came back today and got it. He’s our four hitter. We haven’t had a home run all year. He bangs two out today.”
Colucci’s solo shot in the third inning and his three-run blast in the sixth were the team’s first homers this season.
“It definitely had an effect,” Colucci said. “I thought, you know what, I’m going to show him.”
WPIAL champion Neshannock (19-5) makes its third appearance in the state finals. Quaker Valley (17-6) was seeking its first.
Neshannock faces either Philadelphia’s Neumann-Goretti or District 4’s Loyalsock in the PIAA championship at 3 p.m. Friday at Penn State. The other semifinal was suspended Monday with Neumann-Goretti leading 5-0 in the fourth.
Neshannock was state Class A champion in 2004 and Class AA runner-up in 1991.
“It’s just like WPIAL championships, you never know if you’re ever getting back,” Kirkwood said. “I told them to enjoy it.”
Neshannock starter Frank Fraschetti threw a six-hitter with one walk, three strikeouts and 12 ground-ball outs. The junior righty also was the winning pitcher in the WPIAL championship May 26, when the Lancers beat Quaker Valley, 4-0.
Both times Neshannock took a first-inning lead.
“It was important to get runs early and give our pitcher a cushion,” shortstop Ray Scala said.
“That’s awesome (to pitch with a lead),” Fraschetti said, “and I can’t ask for anything more.”
Combined, Neshannock’s first four batters reached base eight times in 13 plate appearances.
A leadoff double by Scala sparked the team’s three-run first inning. Rich Serigenes walked twice Monday and scored both times. Jake Swope had a two-run double in the first and reached base three times.
Neshannock scored three in the first, one in the third and three in the fifth off Garbee, an Akron recruit. The Lancers have scored at least seven runs in five of their seven playoff games.
“We’re peaking,” said Colucci, a Slippery Rock recruit. “Our pitching and defense has been solid all year. Hitting-wise, we were not very good at the beginning of the year. Now we’re starting to hit the ball.”
Garbee allowed seven hits, six walks and struck out five in five innings. He also took the loss in the WPIAL final.
“He didn’t hit his spots, but Tyler Garbee is a great pitcher,” Quaker Valley coach Todd Goble said. “To sit here and say he didn’t do this or that is not fair to Tyler at all. He gave us everything he had all season.”
The Quakers scored once in the third and once in the seventh. In the third, Nick Saladino singled and scored. In the sixth, Peyton Russoniello doubled and scored.
“We had a game plan,” Goble said. “Did we execute it the way we wanted to? I don’t think so. We didn’t play at the intensity that we should have for whatever reason. But they’re a good team. They deserved it.”