By Matt Popchock
Waynesburg pitcher Joe Monica and hard-hitting catcher Steve McCaw were on their collective game both offensively and defensively, but it was the top end of the Riverside battery that supplied just enough juice at the right time to give the Panthers their first district title in baseball since 2006.
Senior pitcher Nick Pollio gave himself a walk-off victory with a somewhat fortuitous RBI single in the bottom of the seventh with one out in a 2-1 triumph over Waynesburg (18-2) in the WPIAL Class AA Baseball Final on a muggy Wednesday at CONSOL Energy Park in Washington.
It was as well-played a game as the score would indicate, as Riverside (16-5) now celebrates its fourth WPIAL baseball championship in school history.
Monica allowed just four hits and struck out six without giving up a walk. The tough-luck loser got Rob Hardy to pop up to center to open that last half-inning before Jake Thellman reached on a ground ball that was bobbled by fellow third baseman Steve Lohr. A sacrifice bunt by Sean Stosnider moved Thellman into scoring position.
The next batter was Pollio, who popped a 1-0 pitch into left field. Left fielder Derek Coss made a good break on the ball but seemed to misjudge it, pulling up at the last second as it dropped in front of him for a single. Thellman’s teammates mobbed him after he slid home well ahead of Coss’ throw.
Pollio scattered six Waynesburg hits, struck out three, and walked one. The only run he surrendered came in the top of the third with two out, when McCaw followed Monica’s single with one of his own to drive in Mike Ammer, giving the Red Raiders a 1-0 lead. He then got Lohr to fly out to right to leave Monica stranded at third, which would loom large.
Ryan Finnegan redeemed his pitcher by leading off the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run. He drove an 0-1 pitch that cleared the advertisements and got lost in the sun in straightaway left field.
Riverside will open the state playoffs against either Langley (City League) or Karns City from District 9, while Waynesburg will enter the PIAA tournament next week against either Everett or Bedford, who will play for the District 5 title.
While Waynesburg struggled against Nick Pollio, Hampton didn’t fare much better against its mound opponent, Dan Altavilla. On a positive note, the Talbots (16-4) did get six men to reach base against him…and that’s not just a backhanded compliment, either.
The Elizabeth Forward senior dominated Hampton Wednesday night, tossing 5 1/3 innings of no-hit baseball as the Warriors (21-0) routed the Talbots 7-0 in the WPIAL Class AAA Final at CONSOL Energy Park. EF’s 2011 team is the fourth in WPIAL history to win a championship with a perfect record, and the first to do so since West Allegheny in 2007.
Hampton finally erased the zero in the “H” column on a line-drive single by Matt Coholich, followed by a bloop double along the left field line by Ryan Gally. Altavilla, who has given up a mind-numbing three earned runs all year, then retired four in a row to secure the title, EF’s first since 1976, and raise his record to 10-0.
He struck out ten and walked three, and although the Talbots did a good job working the count early on, he consistently made good pitches and got outs when he needed them.
Furthermore, Altavilla was aided by the kind of instant offense the Warriors have proven capable of producing all year. They jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead with one out in the top of the first on three consecutive doubles by Ryan Meier, John Kutzfara, and Altavilla himself against Hampton starter John Koch, who allowed four hits and was pulled after just two innings.
The fourth hit was a two-run homer by senior shortstop Cody Shotwell, who went 3-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored, to make it 4-0 in favor of EF. Cole Quattrone reached on an infield error to begin the inning, and with two out, Shotwell belted the first pitch he saw over the left field fence.
Although Quattrone went 0-for-3, he scored both times he reached. Besides Shotwell, Kutzfara was the other offensive star, going 3-for-4 with a run scored and two batted in.
Meanwhile, John Arnold pitched admirably in relief for Hampton, which will open the PIAA playoffs against either Punxsutawney or Bradford of District 9 next week. In four innings Arnold held Elizabeth Forward to one run on two hits.
The Warriors will open the state playoffs against Carrick on Monday.