Burrell uses 2 home runs to oust Mt. Pleasant in Class 3A 1st round

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018 | 8:24 PM


Burrell did not hit a home run during a weather-shortened 12-game regular season.

But the sixth-seeded Buccaneers went deep twice in their playoff opener Wednesday — both shots down the left-field line, the second met with some controversy — on the way to a 12-5 victory over No. 11 Mt. Pleasant in a WPIAL Class 3A first-round game at Latrobe's Graham Sobota-Field.

Senior center fielder Nick Hwostow homered in the third inning to tie the Vikings (8-8), 1-1, and senior second baseman Corey Christie added a three-run shot in the sixth to give the Bucs (10-3) some insurance after they took a five-run lead into the frame.

“It was nice to see us hit a couple,” Burrell coach Mark Spohn said. “It's tough to hit one out at our field. Nick had a big day for us. We hide him down there in the No. 9 spot. He's my second leadoff hitter.”

Hwostow went 2 for 3 with two RBIs, while Christie also had two hits and drove in four for Burrell, which advances to the quarterfinals for the second straight time. The Bucs will play No. 3 South Side Beaver (12-4) on Monday.

“We play better on turf fields,” Hwostow said. “I wasn't thinking about a home run. I just try to get on base. This is big for us to get the first (playoff win) out of the way. It boosts our confidence.”

Mt. Pleasant left 11 runners stranded and left the bases loaded in the second and fifth innings.

“That's been one of our struggles,” Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Firmstone said. “In our last three section games, I bet we left 30 on base. We have to learn to get those runs in.

Burrell used a big third inning to take early command. The Bucs scored five times with Hwostow's leadoff homer. The next five Bucs hitters reached base and Drew Cambal and Corey Christie produced back-to-back singles to give the Bucs a 3-1 advantage.

Jake Okapal followed with a sacrifice fly, and Marshall McKallip's sacrifice fly made it 5-1.

After consecutive walks, Mt. Pleasant rallied to cut the deficit to 5-4 in the fifth. Pete Billey and Joe Shrum each singled and Asher O'Conner grounded out, producing two runs.

Hunter Tate's singled in a run to pull the Vikings within one.

Burrell tacked on four more in the fifth. Hwostow ripped a two-run single and an errant throw got past Mt. Pleasant catcher Pete Billey to put the Bucs ahead by four. A wild pitch allowed another score to make it 9-4.

Billey went 3 for 4 with two doubles.

In the sixth, after a pair of walks, Christie drove a pitch to the left-field corner. Noah Lynch converged but the ball appeared to go over the fence, possibly on a bounce. The umpires met to discuss the hit and decided it was a home run.

“Noah said the ball hit the turf and bounced under the fence,” Firmstone said. “He wouldn't lie. It's tough to see them call that a home run.”

Shrum added a triple for the Vikings and also walked twice.

“We made minimal mistakes,” Spohn said. “Their starter threw pretty hard. We did a nice job adjusting to him. All in all, we played well.”

The Vikings' last run scored on a late wild pitch.

Mt. Pleasant loaded the bases in the top of the second and took a 1-0 lead when Lynch was hit by a pitch.

The Vikings, who made the WPIAL final last season and will move up to Class 4A, only lose two senior starters. A young group got another taste of playoff experience.

“The kids will learn from this,” Firmstone said. “They know they need to make the routine plays. There is a lot they can take from this.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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