NA seeks 8th WPIAL baseball title, Canon-Mac wants 1st
When North Allegheny played Canon-McMillan at Wild Things Park in March, NA left the stadium with hopes to return two months later.
The minor league park hosts the WPIAL finals.
“You’re missing an opportunity as a coach if you don’t make sure that’s a point that gets made while you’re down there,” NA coach Andrew Heck said. “Definitely we had that in mind. But I don’t think I really had to say it. I think our kids understood.”
If it happened, they knew there was a chance Canon-McMillan could be waiting for them.
Now nine weeks later, No. 10 seed North Allegheny (13-10) is headed back Wild Things Park to face No. 4 Canon-McMillan (16-5) in the WPIAL Class 6A final at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“When the bracket came out, I told my assistants it’s going to be North Allegheny that comes out of that side,” Canon-McMillan coach Tim Bruzdewicz said. “(My assistants) said there’s no way. But they’re resilient, they do things the right way and they play every pitch.”
It’s also a matchup Bruzdewicz and his Big Macs wanted.
NA has defeated Canon-McMillan three times in two seasons including 4-1 in March. The Big Macs also lost to NA in last year’s semifinals.
“The kids are pumped up to play NA,” Bruzdewicz said. “That’s the team that I wanted to play. … North Allegheny’s beaten you three times in a row. They’re the only team that’s owned you right now and in every game you had the lead. Why don’t you just go out and impose your will?”
Canon-McMillan is making its first championship appearance in team history, but its predecessor, Canonsburg High School, won WPIAL title in 1935 and 1936.
North Allegheny makes its 12th appearance in the WPIAL finals and seeks its eighth title. The Tigers were runners-up last season, losing to Pine-Richland in a one-run loss that stuck with them.
“The big message all year has been we were one out away from tying that game last year and playing extra innings for the gold,” Heck said.
North Allegheny lost seven of nine to end the regular season but has found a way to win in the playoffs. The Tigers defeated No. 7 Penn-Trafford 6-0, No. 2 Bethel Park, 3-1, and No. 3 Hempfield, 6-4.
“We figured some stuff out at the end of this year,” Heck said. “We learned to play scrappy. Obviously we haven’t played our best baseball through the playoffs with 18 strikeouts in one game and seven errors in another game. That’s not who we are as a team and we know that, but we found a way to win both of those games.”
Canon-McMillan has won 10 of its past 12 games since a 6-3 loss to Bethel Park on April 16. That loss was a turning point, Bruzdewicz said.
In the playoffs, Canon-Mac defeated No. 13 Norwin, 2-0, No. 5 Plum, 2-1, and No. 1 Central Catholic, 8-5.
“The kids were already thinking they were champions before the section season was over,” Bruzdewicz said. “We had a little team meeting and I basically challenged our three senior captains. I said this is your team, this is not my team. If you lead them, you will go where you want to go. … From that day, it’s been a total turnaround.”