2022 WPIAL Class 6A baseball championship preview: Mt. Lebanon vs. Upper St. Clair

Monday, May 30, 2022 | 3:39 PM

WPIAL Class 6A baseball championship

1-Mt. Lebanon (15-7) vs. 7-Upper St. Clair (12-8)

7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Wild Things Park, Washington

On the air: Trib HSSN (video)

Road to the finals

Mt. Lebanon The Blue Devils earned the No. 1 seed thanks to a 9-1 record in Section 2-6A, but that hasn’t given them a easy road to Wild Things Park by any means. In the quarterfinals, they beat No. 8 Seneca Valley, 5-4, in a game that could have gone either way, In the semifinals, brothers Derrick and David Shields combined to throw a three-hitter in a 2-1 win over No. 5 Central Catholic.

Upper St. Clair At the start of the playoffs, there were no clues the seventh-seeded Panthers were about to go on a run. They’d lost four of their last six, including an 11-0 setback against North Allegheny in the regular season finale. But once the postseason lights came on, Upper St. Clair took off. First, 11 days after the 11-0 loss, the Panthers scored four runs in the top of the eighth inning to beat No. 2 North Allegheny, 5-1. The momentum carried over into the semifinals, as they dispatched No. 6 Butler, 8-2.

Secret to their success

Mt. Lebanon — The Blue Devils stumbled out of the gate this season, losing four in a row after an opening win over Pine-Richland. They heated up down the stretch on the strength of their pitching. Mt. Lebanon carries a six-game winning streak into the finals, giving up a total of seven runs during the stretch. Derrick Shields is the ace. He allowed one unearned run in six innings against Seneca Valley. His freshman brother, David, has been the closer in the playoffs. He threw two scoreless innings against Seneca Valley and another against Central Catholic, striking out five. Jack Smith, a Harvard recruit, hit a three-run homer in the quarterfinals.

Upper St. Clair — The Panthers have used a tried-and-true method to advance through the Class 6A bracket – great starting pitching and timely hitting. In the North Allegheny game, Joe Altvater worked all eight innings, allowing six hits and one unearned run with eight strikeouts. Against Butler, Brandon Liokareas started and went 6.1 innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts. Catcher Ty Lagoni has been the star at the plate, hitting a two-run single in the pivotal eighth inning against North Allegheny and going 1 for 3 with two walks and an RBI double against Butler. Third baseman Christian Wieczenski was 2 for 3 with two RBIs in the semifinals.

Championship factoids

Mt. Lebanon — The Blue Devils are back in the WPIAL finals after a 10-year absence. They lost to Seneca Valley in the 2012 championship game. Their last title came in 2006 with a victory over Norwin. Mt. Lebanon also won WPIAL championships in 2002, 1993 and 1959. There were four classes in WPIAL baseball in 2006, three in 2022, two in 1993 and one in 1959.

Upper St. Clair — The Panthers are making their first trip to the WPIAL finals since 2005, when they lost 12-1 to North Allegheny. The last time they won a WPIAL title was in 1992, when they defeated Butler, 7-2. In that game, Sean Casey played for Upper St. Clair and Matt Clement played for Butler.

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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