Seton-La Salle advances to WPIAL title game
Seton-La Salle has “walked-off” its way to the WPIAL Class AA championship game.
For the second consecutive game, the Rebels pulled out an extra innings victory by ousting Deer Lakes, 3-2.
The Rebels (15-5) will face Steel Valley in the finals at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Washington’s Consol Energy Park.
Seton-La Salle’s last trip to the WPIAL title game resulted in a 2007 loss to North Catholic, 4-3. The Rebels won their only Class AA title in 1995.
Deer Lakes (16-5) will face Quaker Valley in the consolation game tentatively set for Tuesday at Washington& Jefferson’s Ross Memorial Park at 4 p.m. The winner gets the third and final berth from the WPIAL in the PIAA tournament, which begins June 2.
Nico Popa, who relieved starter David Boehme in the top of the eighth, was the winning pitcher and scored the decisive run.
Popa was hit by a pitch to lead off the eighth and was bunted to second by Carson Rebel.
Kevin Curran then smacked a single to left field to bring home Popa.
“I’ve been involved in those (games) that went the other way,” Rebels coach Shawn Trainor said off the walk-off wins. “We got beat in the WPIAL finals in a walk-off. So I know how it feels.”
On Saturday, Seton-La Salle knocked off top-seeded Neshannock in nine innings in the quarterfinal round. Thursday, the Rebels did it again to beat Deer Lakes in the semifinals at Fox Chapel High School.
Seton-La Salle had a chance to win it in regulation.
With Deer Lakes leading, 2-1, and just three outs away from its first trip to the WPIAL finals, Lancers pitcher Dom Chiera walked pinch hitter Dom DelGreco to start the seventh. Matt Wilke’s bunt got past second baseman Jimmy Feil covering first, putting Rebels runners at second and third with none out.
Danzel McKinley Lewis tied the game on a sacrifice fly to left as Wilke took third. Chiera then got the next two out on grounders to send the game into extra innings.
“Dom threw a great game,” Deer Lakes coach Jon Pedrosky said. “He’s a great competitor, and that’s a great hitting team that he held to three runs. We made some mistakes and we’re usually solid, defensively, but that can happen in a big game.”
The Lancers stranded 11 runners, including two in each of the first three innings.
“We had Boehme’s pitch count up a little bit and had quite a few runners on base early,” Pedrosky said. “We just couldn’t come up with that big hit to extend our lead.
Deer Lakes scored in the top of the first when Matt Olesnevich walked and scored on Todd Coleman’s single through the right side.
After Seton-La Salle tied it on a double by Popa and a single from Rebel, Deer Lakes regained the lead in the top of the fifth.
Coleman was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Zach Hudecek squared around to bunt but was hit by a pitch. The Rebels coaching staff said that Hudecek offered at the pitch.
Feil’s perfect bunt was thrown down the right field line by Boehme, scoring Coleman.
But with runners on second and third with none out, Boehme slammed the door as Hudecek was retired at the plate on a fielder’s choice.
A foul out behind home plate and a fly ball to right kept the score at 2-1 Lancers.
“He normally doesn’t walk anybody,” Trainor said of Boehme, who issued seven free passes and hit three batters. “That’s not his m.o. He just struggled, but he gutted it out.”
The loss broke a nine-game Lancers winning streak.
George Guido is a freelance writer.