- High School
Panthers Become First School to Win 4 PIAA Baseball Championships
Defense ruled as the Riverside Panthers became the first team to win back to back PIAA baseball championships twice as the Panthers claimed a 5-4 decision over the Pine Grove Cardinals at Penn State University's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Friday. Riverside used four web gem quality plays to get the win.
The Panthers rallied from an early 3-0 deficit and used sharp fielding to also become the leader with four state baseball gold medals. The first web gem came in the top of the fifth with two outs and runners at the corners for the Cardinals. Jordan Shiffer hit a liner to right, junior Ian Sutherland was fooled on the ball initially, it didn't look pretty, but Sutherland made the catch to end the inning.
The second was in the sixth, after Jed Blankenhorn and Kobe D'Agostino led off with singles to put runners at second and third, Riverside coach Dan Oliastro made the decision to bring the infield in. Nick Todero hit a sharp grounder to second base that Blaise McCarty made a sliding stop to keep the ball on the grass, McCarty was able to get an out, Blakenhorn scored. The third defensive play came on the next batter as Josh Scheibly hit a foul pop near the first base dugout, Tyler Falk made the catch hanging over the railing for the second out, Rob Hardy struck out Ty Zimmerman for final out.
The final web gem came in the top of the seventh, with two outs, Jim Martin hit another sharp grounder to second, Falk came too far towards second, taking him out of the play, Hardy covered first base, the throw just got Martin and set off the celebration both on the field and in North Sewickley Township.
Pine Grove took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first when Stevie Zimmerman crushed a two run homer into the left field picnic area, it was Zimmerman's fifth homer of the season. The Cardinals made it 3-0 when Todero singled home Blakenhorn with a shot up the middle off the pitching rubber. That hit forced Oliastro to make a change, the 44 year veteran coach relieved McCarty, the starter and sent Hardy to the hill on just three days rest. Oliastro said he was hoping that McCarty could go at least five innings, he said Hardy had struggled pitching on that short of a rest. Hardy held the Cardinals off the board until the sixth inning, he went 5.2 innings and allowed just two hits and fanned six. The senior finishes with an 8-3 record this season.
Riverside scored a run in the second, Tyler Whitlach singled to bring home Sutherland, the Cardinals got a web gem of their own when Brandon Scheibly made a diving catch on a sinking liner by Devin Kelosky that would have been extra bases.
The Panthers put up a four spot in the fourth, McCarty walked to lead off the inning and was bunted to second, he moved to third on a Whitlach grounder to short and scored on an Anthony Menice single. That made the score 3-2, Pine Grove should have been out of the inning, Kelosky hit a grounder to third that Josh Scheibly threw well over first base, allowing Menice to go to third and Kelosy to second. Dylan Jones beat out an infield hit that scored Menice, Falk followed with a triple over center fielder Shiffer that allowed Jones to make it 5-3 Panthers and allow the defense to take it the rest of the way.
For the Panthers, Falk and Meniece each had two hits and drove in a run. Riverside ends the season 22-6, the Panthers have won a WPIAL title and two state titles in this two year cycle.
Pine Grove, the District 11 champion, had never been to the state title game before this season, the Cardinals finish 23-7. Todero and Stevie Zimmerman each drove in two runs, Blankenhorn had two hits and scored twice. Jared McCabe was the losing pitcher, he pitched 5.2 innings, allowing all five runs on nine hits, he struck out five, he ends with a 12-4 record.
Pine Grove Cardinals : 2 - 1 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 1 - 0 = 4-6-2
Riverside Panthers : 0 - 1 - 0 - 4 - 0 - 0 - x = 5-9-1