Upper St. Clair continues its streak
By WPIAL standards, it was a first-round playoff game, but Upper St. Clair’s 10-5 victory against Section 2-AAAA winner Norwin was, actually, Round 6.
“Our playoffs started two weeks ago,” Upper St. Clair coach Jerry Malarkey said. “So, this is just another game in the string of playoffs.”
Upper St. Clair was 4-6 in Section 4-AAAA on April 4, battling with Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park for the third and final playoff spot. It clinched the berth by winning four of its past five section contests.
Against Norwin, the Panthers jumped out to a 7-1 lead with a four-run fourth inning and solid pitching from Ryan Cain, who allowed just five hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Cain shut out the Knights from the second to fifth inning, giving up two hits in four innings. He was pulled in the bottom of the sixth, as Norwin made a late rally.
Malarkey brought in pitcher Pat Gannon to close out the game, but errors and walks helped Norwin score four runs on two hits in the sixth inning. Gannon got Knights designated hitter Matt Petro, who singled earlier in the inning, to ground out to second leaving the bases loaded and Norwin two runs short of Upper St. Clair’s seven.
Upper St. Clair added three more runs in the top of the seventh to put the game out of reach. Gannon struck out the side in the seventh.
The Panthers blew the game open in the top of the fourth, with two back-to-back two-out hits from Dan Cafaro and Kris McDonough.
“Both hung in there and both battled,” Malarkey said. “I just think that was really two outstanding at-bats by two kids who have really provided the punch for us all season long.”
Cafaro knocked in two runs with a triple to deep right field, and McDonough followed with a two-run homer over the right field fence.
“I’m not usually the kid to take it to deep right,” McDonough said of his home run. He also scored a run in the first after he reached on an error.
Upper St. Clair will play Canon-McMillan, which had a bye. Canon-McMillan won two of three from the Panthers in the regular season.