Blackhawk Blanks South Park for 4-A Baseball Crown

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017 | 9:33 AM


As is the case with tightly contested title games, one inning can be the difference between championship gold and being left behind as the WPIAL runner up.

South Park starter Kyle Thompson took a no hitter into the fourth inning and appeared to be en route to a gem of a performance, but not before Blackhawk got to him in the bottom of that very inning en route to a 3-0 victory on Tuesday night at Wild Things Park in Washington (PA).

Blackhawk’s Nick Cerani and Michael Turconi had back-to-back hits in the bottom of that fourth inning, before Mark Engel bunted them over to secure runners on second and third.

Jimmy Nixon was safe at first on a fielder’s choice, which allowed Cerani to score, and Anthony Sebastian broke the game open with a two-run triple to give Blackhawk a 3-0 lead.

Blackhawk’s Jon Pence gave up just five hits and held South Park, another high powered offense, scoreless. Pence, a senior, was 4-1 on the season with 52 strikeouts. Pence was lifted after five innings, replaced by Andy McClymonds in the sixth. McClymonds pitched a clean sixth inning for the Cougars.

South Park’s Thompson was otherwise efficient giving up just four hits in five innings of work, striking out eight, while surrendering those three runs, all of which were in the bottom of that fourth inning. He entered the game with a 2.62 earned run average. Thompson was replaced by lefty Kevin Vaupel in the bottom of the sixth.

Vaupel struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth, giving South Park once last chance to tie the game at 3.
South Park’s Tanner Pantuso walked, and McClymonds was replaced by Turconi in the seventh. Turconi came on with no one out and proceeded to strikeout Bryce Groff, but gave up a hit to Tyler Bywalksi to put runners at first and second with just one out. Turconi struck out Adam Morris and getting a force out at second on a ground ball hit by Kyle Thompson.

Blackhawk’s high-powered offense, to the credit of South Park, was held to just three runs. The Cougars had plated double digits in 14 of their games this season.

Both teams entered the WPIAL Class 4A title game with identical 20-2 records. Blackhawk, the number one seed, improves to 21-2, while South Park, entering as the No. 3 seed,  falls to 20-3. Both teams have qualified for the PIAA playoffs, with Blackhawk playing the District 10 runner in Erie-Meadville, while South Park draws District 9 champs DuBois-Clarion).

For Blackhawk and coach Bob Amelia, this as his eighth trip to the finals, winning in 2004 and 2012 before this season’s victory. Blackhawk’s baseball program has made the playoffs 16 straight seasons. The Cougars path to the title game included a first-round bye as well, alon with victories over Ringgold and Deer Lakes, 12-0 and 7-3, respectively.

South Park’s WPIAL bid ends after winning titles in 2002 and 2013 under head coach Steve Bucci. The Eagles received a first round bye in the first round of the 4-A bracket before dispatching New Castle 13-1 and crushing Hopewell in the semifinals 9-2.