Leechburg bows out of playoffs after first round for second straight season
MOUNT PLEASANT – Entering the postseason, nearly half of the Leechburg starting lineup was hitting .390 or better.
But the other half was the problem in the WPIAL-A baseball first round playoff game against California.
Dan Hill, Tony Canzano, Rob Mattu and Josh Troiano have a combined batting average of .459 for the Blue Devils, and the four pounded out four of the Blue Devils’ seven hits Monday afternoon. But with the bottom five in the Leechburg order struggling, the Trojans rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fifth at Mount Pleasant High School to eliminate the Blue Devils, 7-4. It was the second season in a row that Leechburg’s season ended in the opening round of the playoffs.
“They went up swinging,” Leechburg head coach Bob Oberdorf said. “They have come through in the clutch this season but they just came up short today.”
“I really think we are lucky to come away with one today,” Trojans’ head coach Don Hartman said. “We gave up the four runs and we were able to get a couple guys on and get that big hit that put us ahead.”
Leechburg stranded eight runners, including four in scoring position.
“We got base runners on with the bottom part of our lineup today,” Oberdorf said. “And there are reasons whey they are batting there.”
Trailing 4-0 in the top half of the fourth, Leechburg loaded the bases with one out but Jason Bologna was caught looking at a questionable third strike and William Mezeres flied out to right field.
“They had their opportunities and I knew we were going to shut them out,” Hartman said. “We danced through the raindrops early on. Sooner or later, I knew they were going to score. They were on the baseball. They were hitting it well.”
Leechburg finally scored off California starting pitcher Bryan Dunn in the fifth inning.
Fonzy Meidus blooped a single over second base and moved to third on a Dunn throwing error as he tried to throw out the speedy Ed Skrot. With one out, Canzano roped a triple down the right field line to cut the Trojans’ lead in half.
Mattu followed with a single to score Canzano and Mattu knotted the game at four on catcher Rob Galis’ throwing error.
Oberdorf was pleased his team battled back but reliever Dan Hill made a crucial mistake in the bottom half of the inning.
With one out and a runner on second, Oberdorf ordered Shane Tonkavitch to be intentionally walked to set up the double play.
But on a 0-2 pitch, Hill put a curveball over the plate that Tonkavitch crushed for a triple to give California the lead back 6-4.
“Yeah, we battled back but they got three right back,” Oberdorf said. “We walked their No. four hitter to get to their fifth guy and hoped we could get the ground ball and get back in here. Danny Hill got ahead of him 0-2 but them got a curveball knee high over the plate and you can’t do that. I’m sure he didn’t me too but he did.”
“My four hitter is actually in a little slump right now,” Hartman confessed. “So when they walked him to get to get to my No. 5, who has been on fire, I was real relieved. He is the guy who is making contact. it is a good baseball move but it just didn’t work out for them.”
Leechburg still had some life as the top of the order rolled around in the sixth down three runs. After Skrot doubled and Hill was hit by a pitch, Tonkovitch buckled down to retire Canzano on a deep fly to center.
“Shane was on my WPIAL championship team two years ago and nothing rattles him,” Hartman said.
Tonkovitch showed that poise by getting four of the final Blue Devils out to seal the victory.