By Matt Popchock
Scouts have come from far and wide to watch Peters Township play, including top hitter Justin Bianco. In fact, a couple folks came all the way from Virginia to take in Monday’s game.
So far, Bianco and his teammates haven’t disappointed them.
The right fielder and Pitt recruit went 3-for-4 with three very timely RBI to inch closer to the Quad-A batting lead and help the Indians (9-0, 13-1) hold off Bethel Park 6-2 in their Class AAAA Section 3 contest at Bethel Park High School’s Purkey Field.
It turned out to be another decisive victory for the front-running visitors, who maintained their two-game lead over Upper St. Clair (those two teams meet at Peterswood Park in Venetia Friday night). But they needed every one of those six runs.
“Every time we come down here, it’s a grind, and I’ve been coaching here 25 years,” said Peters manager Joe Maize. “We’re lucky to come away with a win.”
The Black Hawks (5-3, 7-5) had a chance to change the Indians’ luck with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, and starting pitcher Ryan Minteer clinging to a 3-2 advantage.
Kyle Barton singled, then went to second on a balk–a call that stood after much deliberation by both umpires and managers–when Minteer motioned to home for an unrequited time out without following through with his pitch to designated hitter John Pauley. Minteer then gave up a full-count walk to Pauley, but he got Jake McCall to look at a well-placed 1-2 fastball for a called third strike, which proved to be a pivotal out.
“I got real mad, and I just hurled it,” Minteer said.
The senior right-hander upped his team-leading record to 4-0 with a complete-game victory, allowing just one earned run on seven hits, striking out seven, and walking three.
Peters Township finally tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh on a two-out, pinch-hit double by John Hlavinka to left-center on a 1-2 pitch that drove in Chris Olivio.
“That was a key clutch hit for him. I was real glad for him, because he’s a hard worker,” Maize said.
Two batters later, with two men on, Bianco blasted another two-strike pitch from starting pitcher Logan Corrigan down the left field line that landed just out of the reach of a diving McCall for a bases-clearing double that cemented the win.
“Those hits gave Ryan some breathing room, and we definitely needed it,” Maize said, pointing to the fact that the Hawks got a one-out double to the gap from Corrigan and a subsequent walk to Grant Brown in their last at-bat. Minteer was undaunted, as he induced two pop-ups to end the game.
“I controlled all my pitches. I felt real good, I just tried to keep them low,” Minteer said.
“This year, the hitting in our section is so much better altogether. We have to just bear down and keep at it.”
Bianco, whose .607 average began the week the fourth-best in Quad-A, would know something about that. With the Indians up 1-0 on a throwing error by shortstop Dylan Forsyth and one down in their half of the third, he looped his second hit of the game into right field to make it 2-0 Peters, as Andrew Erenberg came in to score.
It was the team-leading 14th run batted in by Bianco, and his eventual 15th and 16th leave him among Class AAAA’s leaders in that category as well.
Catcher Will McClure provided the game-winning hit later in the inning, a single up the middle that drove in Brady Sheetz.
“I’m pleased we got eight hits off [Corrigan]. We had seen footage of him pitching against [Upper] St. Clair…he moves his pitches well, throws some great off-speed stuff, so we knew we were in a battle against him,” Maize said.
Corrigan, who, like Bianco, enjoyed a 3-for-4 day at the plate, went the distance in defeat. The sophomore allowed five earned runs and struck out five for Bethel, which fell for the second time to Peters, and for the second time in its last three section games. He issued just one walk and hit Sheetz, who scored on Bianco’s late double.
“Gotta keep those bats alive. We keep getting hits off good pitching, we’re going to win a lot of games,” Minteer added.
Peters Township, which has now won ten in a row overall, brought them to life after Corrigan quieted them for three straight innings, retiring ten straight Indians leading up to that fateful seventh.
So much for rust being a factor, what with the miserable weather in western Pennsylvania this spring.
“We’ve only been on the field (outside) three times the entire spring for practice,” Maize said, incredulously.
Fortunately for the sake of his team, it didn’t show.
For continuing coverage of WPIAL baseball, be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports throughout the 2011 season!