Ringgold tops Meadville to reach PIAA Class 4A baseball final
By: Dan Palm
Monday, June 11, 2018 | 11:19 PM
The Ringgold baseball team will continue its historic season with a date in the PIAA Class 4A championship game Thursday after a thrilling 3-2 semifinal win over Meadville at Neshannock Monday.
The Rams (19-4) scored an unearned run in the top of the seventh to give Ryan Varley the win on the mound. The Alderson Broaddus recruit pitched 6 2⁄3 innings, allowing four hits with 11 strikeouts and two walks.
Josh Peters picked up the last out with two runners on to send Ringgold to its first state championship game in school history.
“Ryan was phenomenal as always,” second-year Ringgold coach Don Roberts said. “He was in command of his fastball and off-speed stuff all game, and he was efficient, which let him get deep into the game. Performances like this are why I think he's the best 4A pitcher in the WPIAL.”
With one out in the seventh, Chase Angotti, who reached on an error, hustled into second base on another error by Bulldogs shortstop Alex Knox. He scored the eventual winning run with two outs when Varley reached on an errant throw by third baseman Nick Rinella.
“I just put my head down and ran as fast as I could,” Varley said. “I knew if there was an overthrow Chase would score.”
Meadville (15-6), the District 10 runner-up, got on the board first with two of its four hits in the first inning. But Varley buckled down and only allowed one unearned run the rest of the way.
“I felt great all game and everything was working,” Varley said. “I knew we'd eventually get the hits, we always do. It was just a matter of when.”
“I think our opponents have scored first in more than half of our playoff games,” he said. “We just keep calm and know that our offense will eventually come through.”
That happened in the fourth inning when Varley and Bo Haines led off the inning with back-to-back full-count walks. Luke Winterbottom advanced the runners with a groundout before Bobby Boyer came through with the big hit, a two-out line drive to right to gave Ringgold a 2-1 lead.
Varley started the bottom of the fifth having retired 11 straight Bulldogs hitters before drama hit.
Meadville's Cole Potase grounded out to Ringgold shortstop Koby Bubash. Potase veered into the field of play while crossing first base and made contact with Rams' first baseman Anthony Vavasori, spiking him and nearly knocking him over.
Vavasori shoved Potase, and the benches nearly emptied. When order was restored, Vavasori and Potase were both ejected. By PIAA rule, Vavasori will not be able to play in the championship game.
“Luckily, Nick Kolano has played some first base this season so we have some experience at the position for the championship game,” Roberts said. “But Vavasori has to know better. He needed to keep his head in that situation, and he didn't. We have a lot of underclassmen playing, and hopefully they learned from that.”
Meadville tied the score at two in the sixth inning when Ringgold made bad throws on three consecutive infield grounders, leading to an unearned run.
Varley got a groundout and strikeout to end the inning with the score tied, setting the stage for the seventh inning heroics.
Ringgold had three hits in the game, with Boyer picking up two and Winterbottom another.
The Rams did draw four walks and were hit by pitches twice; Meadville starter Chad Neugabauer reached the 100-pitch limit at the end of the sixth.
Catcher Nick Frantz took over on the mound in the seventh for the Bulldogs and took the loss despite striking out three in the inning.
The Rams will face District 2 champion Valley View (15-6) in the PIAA championship game Thursday at Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
Dan Palm is a Mon Valley Independent staff writer.