14th-seeded Hopewell completes Cinderella run to WPIAL Class 4A crown with win over Latrobe
Tuesday, May 30, 2023 | 6:27 PM
Landon Fox was hurting but hunting.
The Hopewell senior pitcher injured his lower back in the last playoff game and was feeling pain early in Tuesday’s WPIAL Class 4A championship game.
“It was getting pretty bad in the third inning,” Fox said. “But I figured, you only get to the WPIAL championship once a year, so I knew I wasn’t coming out.”
Or in this case, twice in three years.
Just the same, Hopewell, the No. 14 seed, expected to be in the finals. And the Vikings weren’t going to let anything stand in their way of winning another title — not back pain, not a late baserunner, not the top of Latrobe’s order.
“Nobody expected us to win, so the pressure was off,” Fox said. “It was just, go out and play.”
Hopewell (12-11) won a title two years ago and was upset last year as the No. 1 seed, so the team didn’t exactly come out of nowhere.
But it had to hold off a similarly scrappy Latrobe team to claim its fifth WPIAL title.
“They showed a lot of fight, just like us,” said Latrobe senior Logan Bradish, who also went all seven innings and had two hits, including a double. “They came out and wanted to fight.”
The lowest-seeded team to win since No. 16 Seneca Valley in 2014, Hopewell rallied from a 2-0 deficit.
Down 4-3, Latrobe (17-7) looked primed to tie or win in the bottom of the seventh, but ran into trouble.
Senior Erick Batista dropped a one-out bunt single, then stole second to move the tying run into scoring position.
Batista, though, was picked off between second and third, as Fox threw to sophomore shortstop Zach Gigliotti, and then to senior third baseman Stephen Slate for the 1-6-5 putout.
Fox got junior Louie Amatucci to look at a 2-2 pitch for a game-ending strikeout.
“These last four games, we have really become the team we thought we could be,” Vikings coach Morgan Singletary said. “Landon is a great kid. Every time he goes out there, we know what we’re getting. He is baseball smart.”
Latrobe was hoping to conjure some of the walk-off magic its 2017 WPIAL champion team had, but it fell short.
“Give Hopewell credit,” Latrobe coach Matt Basciano said. “And give our kids credit for fighting until the end. Both pitchers threw great games. The defenses played well. It was a couple plays. That’s baseball.”
Latrobe took a 2-0 lead in the first on a double by Bradish and a two-run single by senior Anthony Massari.
But the Vikings answered in the top of the second. Senior Greg Barlion singled, Fox doubled and a walk loaded the bases.
Junior John Vescio was then hit by a pitch for the first run, Gigliotti followed with a single to tie it, and senior Ty Eberhardt’s sacrifice fly made it 3-2.
It became a two-run lead in the fourth when Gigliotti delivered a sacrifice fly after a Latrobe error.
The Wildcats cut it to 4-3 in the fifth. Batista tripled into the left-field corner, and Amatucci brought him home on a sac fly to make it 4-3.
Vascio made a highlight-reel catch in center to rob senior Tyler Fazekas of a hit in the sixth.
Despite some pain, Fox said he settled in and kept the Wildcats’ lineup at bay.
“They were good early in counts,” he said. “My changeup started working for me. This is the second WPIAL title for this group. We know how to win.”
Barlion had two hits for the Vikings.
Batista and Massari each had two hits for Latrobe. Batista scored twice.
Both teams will enter the PIAA playoffs Monday.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
More Baseball• Recruiting process takes Freeport pitcher Michael Hanz to the place he belongs
• Norwin notebook: Former Knights baseball standout wins Palomino World Series
• PONY League World Series begins in Washington County
• Younger brother is best friend, inspiration to Chartiers Valley assistant baseball coach
• Senior class leaves unprecedented mark on Bethel Park baseball program