2022 WPIAL Class 3A baseball championship preview: Mohawk vs. South Park

Tuesday, May 31, 2022 | 4:04 PM

WPIAL Class 3A baseball championship

4-Mohawk (16-4) vs. 2-South Park (17-5)

4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Wild Things Park, Washington

On the air: Trib HSSN (Video)

Road to the finals

Mohawk The Warriors have been solid all season long but finished second behind Hopewell in Section 1 because they had a couple of slip-ups – splits with New Brighton and Ellwood City – that the Vikings didn’t have. Once the playoffs started, though, Mohawk found another gear. The No. 4 Warriors handled No. 13 Keystone Oaks, 7-1, smoked No. 5 Yough, 15-1, and knocked off top-seeded Hopewell, their section rival, 6-2 in the semifinals.

South Park The second-seeded Eagles were dominant in the regular season. They went 8-0 in Section 2-3A, outscoring opponents 96-10. Some of their five nonsection losses were to larger schools like Shaler and Peters Township. Their dominance continued through two playoff rounds with a 14-1 win over No. 15 Waynesburg and a 7-4 victory over No. 7 New Brighton. The semifinals, however, were a battle. South Park needed a two-run third inning with an RBI double from senior Drew Lafferty and an RBI single from senior shortstop Brandon Clifford to get past No. 3 Avonworth, 3-2.

Secret to their success

Mohawk — Senior Cooper Vance has been one of the WPIAL’s most dangerous arms in the playoffs. He earned wins over Keystone Oaks and Hopewell, giving up a total of two earned runs in 14 innings, striking out 22. Opposing pitchers get no breaks facing the Mohawk lineup. Senior third baseman JC Voss is 5 for 9 with a homer and eight RBIs in the playoffs. Senior outfielder Marc Conti is 5 for 7 with five runs knocked in. Sophomore second baseman Jay Wrona has driven in two runs in each of the team’s three playoff games, and junior first baseman Jacob Werner is 5 for 9 from the nine hole in the order.

South Park — The Eagles are fueled by the Lafferty cousins. Drew, a Kentucky recruit, is one of the WPIAL’s top players. He pitched against Waynesburg and Avonworth, giving up a total of two earned runs in 11 innings with 19 strikeouts. He also has been South Park’s top hitter in the playoffs, going 6 for 9 with a home run and six RBIs. Austin Lafferty, a junior, has made a major impact as the team’s leadoff hitter and closer. He earned a save in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Senior first baseman Luke Rider has been an important bat in the middle of the lineup, going 4 for 10 with six RBIs.

Championship factoids

Mohawk — The Warriors don’t have the championship pedigree of their finals opponent, but the program is on a positive trajectory. Mohawk has only made three playoff appearances in the last 10 years, but they’re all in the last three seasons. In 2021 and 2019, the Warriors suffered first-round losses.

South Park — The Eagles won the school’s first WPIAL championship in 2013, beating Hopewell, 4-3, in nine innings to take the Class 3A crown. They’ve made the playoffs every year since, but are yet to make another big addition to the school’s trophy case. Last year, they lost 6-5 to Hopewell in the finals. They also reached the championship game in 2017, falling 3-0 to Blackhawk.

Jonathan Bombulie is the TribLive assistant sports editor. A Greensburg native, he was a hockey reporter for two decades, covering the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for 17 seasons before joining the Trib in 2015 and covering the Penguins for four seasons, including Stanley Cup championships in 2016-17. He can be reached at jbombulie@triblive.com.

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