Canon-McMillan earns trip to PIAA baseball finals

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018 | 7:51 PM


SCOTLAND — Zach Rohaley had never faced Council Rock North, but the Canon-McMillan right-hander felt like he already knew them at least a little.

“Whenever I'd hear a name come up I'd say, ‘I remember that name,' ” Rohaley said.

Credit the scouting report.

Against a team from the opposite side of the state, Rohaley pitched six strong innings and teammate Brandan Rea drove in two runs as Canon-Mac defeated Council Rock North, 4-1, in a PIAA Class 6A semifinal Tuesday at Greene Township Park. The Big Macs were even prepared for a sly pickoff play that didn't trick them.

“We had a lot of information on them,” Canon-Mac coach Tim Bruzdewicz said. “We had a great scouting report. We trusted the report because it was from a guy I personally know.”

Now, two weeks after winning its first WPIAL baseball title, Canon-McMillan has a state championship within reach.

The Big Macs face District 1 champion Bensalem in the PIAA final at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Penn State.

“The emotions,” Bruzdewicz said, “it's just crazy right now.”

Rea went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and Cameron Walker went 2 for 4 with a run scored for Canon-Mac (20-5), which had seven hits. The Big Macs scored two runs in the third and two more in the fourth.

That was enough for Rohaley, who allowed only five hits, all singles, walked none and struck out two while stranding four runners. Bruzdewicz, who calls pitches, used the scouting report to craft a plan for Rohaley to face Council Rock's batters.

“He knew we were going to pitch backwards,” Bruzdewicz said. “We were going to throw changeups, sliders, curveballs first pitch, and finish with sliders, curveballs and changeups. It's hard to do. … There aren't many high school pitchers that I've ever seen that can do that.”

Bruzdewicz replaced Rohaley after the sixth inning with plans to pitch him again Friday in the championship.

Rohaley was tracking his pitch count, wanting to stay below the 75-pitch cutoff to pitch on two-days rest. The plan was to pull him after six innings if the Big Macs still led by three.

After the fifth, Rohaley was a little nervous.

“First thing I said was, ‘Buzz, how many pitches am I at?' ” Rohaley said. “He told me 67, and said you'd better go out there and work.”

Rohaley retired his final three batters in order and finished with 76 pitches, but Bruzdewicz said the team's ace is available to pitch Friday.

“The rule is, he started the (final) batter with 74, so if he goes over 75, it goes retroactively back,” Bruzdewicz said. “We're allowed to put 75. He is eligible to pitch.”

Weston relieved Rohaley in the seventh and earned a save.

Council Rock scored its run in the second, but Canon-McMillan answered in the third. Rea's two-out single scored Brandon Kline and Cam Walker to lead 2-1.

In the fourth, the Big Macs used a leadoff walk by Cory Didier, a fielding error that let Ian Hess reach base and a Weston triple to score two runs.

Bruzdewicz made clear that the players, not the scouting report, won Tuesday's semifinal. But the scouting, which he called “very detailed,” surely put them in a good position.

“Some coaches don't even scout,” Bruzdewicz said. “I'm an old-school guy, but these analytics really work at the high school level. In fact, I think they work more because there are more holes in people's swings.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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