Adam Jackowski leads South Allegheny baseball past Burrell in WPIAL consolation game

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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | 5:31 PM


Adam Jackowski shook off some early rough patches and started to cruise.

The South Allegheny sophomore, who surrendered two runs on five hits and a pair of walks while throwing 61 total pitches over the first three innings of Tuesday’s WPIAL Class 3A consolation game against Burrell, settled down after that.

He needed only 39 pitches over the final four innings as he retired 15 of the final 16 Bucs batters he faced. At the same time, the Gladiators offense added on to pull away for an 8-2 victory at Washington & Jefferson’s Ross Memorial Park.

“I started mixing in my curveball a little bit, throwing it first pitch, second pitch and then throwing the fastball,” said Jackowski, who struck out four in the complete-game effort which helped South Allegheny bounce back from a 2-0 loss to No. 1 Riverside in the semifinals last week.

“It was just my pitch mix, really. I was just trusting my defense. Our defense was absolutely incredible.”

Burrell senior Ryan Bates doubled with no outs in the third, driving home junior Isaac Lacinski, who had singled to open the frame.

That was the Bucs’ last hit. Jackowski hit Mike McKay with one out in the sixth, but a two-out fielder’s choice ended any idea of a Burrell scoring chance. Jackowski finished the game at exactly 100 pitches.

“It’s a really good feeling, especially since, last year, we got knocked out in the first round,” he said.

South Allegheny, which surrendered four runs in its four WPIAL playoff games, improved to 18-5 and will turn its attention to the PIAA playoffs, where it will face the District 6 champion – either Central Cambria or Huntingdon – in the first round Monday at a site and time to be determined.

The District 6 title game is Wednesday at Vet’s Field in Altoona.

“These kids, they are the toughest I’ve ever worked with,” South Allegheny coach Gib Pohodich said

“They grind it out. I am very proud as a coach to accomplish what we did this year. We said all year, our job’s not done. I hope we get Riverside at states. I want them again. If we’re going to win it, I want to beat them.”

Burrell, 13-10 on the season, rose to the state playoffs after starting the WPIAL tournament as the No. 14 seed. The Bucs will try to halt a two-game losing skid Monday as they open the PIAA tournament near Erie against District 10 champion Fairview.

“Today was definitely a gut-check game,” Burrell coach Jay Miller said.

“I think our mindset needs to revert back to playing team baseball across the board. You could just tell that our energy wasn’t there. We didn’t have that focused energy. Whatever that may be, there was truly no excuse for it. We have to show up ready to play, and we didn’t today.

“We have to get back to the drawing board and get ready for a good Fairview team.”

Burrell struck first in the top of the first

Senior A.J. McLafferty drew a walk and stole second with no outs.

After two outs, freshman Trey Coury flared a Jackowski offering into shallow center to plate McLafferty for a 1-0 Bucs lead.

South Allegheny responded in the bottom half of the first.

The Gladiators loaded the bases with no outs and scored twice on a run-scoring fielder’s choice from junior Ryan Cortes and an infield single from fellow junior Josh Jackowski.

Burrell tied it in the third but had a chance to do some damage in the second. The Bucs loaded the bases with two outs, but all three runners were left stranded.

South Allegheny scored twice in the bottom of the fourth to take a 4-2 lead. Junior Josh Nesky collected a two-out single to plate what turned out to be the eventual game-winning runs.

That was all for Bucs starter Stevie Hasson, as the junior hurler left the game after giving up four earned runs, five hits and five walks.

Sophomore Brayden Mell came on and gave up two hits and a walk while striking out three. All four runs South Allegheny scored over the final two innings were unearned with the help of a trio of Burrell errors.

“I think that Stevie wasn’t as sharp as he has been all year,” Miller said.

“We let him ride through a couple innings where that wasn’t necessarily the case, and he looked good,” Miller said.

“Pitch count wasn’t really an issue. It was just the flow of the game. We have a nice righty in Brayden who has been getting ready to pitch in every game of the playoffs, and today was his shot. We could tell the energy of the game was flowing in the opposite direction, and we tried to do something to change it.”

Hasson finished his four innings with 68 pitches.

“Stevie is real level headed with everything,” Miller said.

“He was very understanding when we explained things to him. I expect him to bounce back and be ready to go when we call upon him for the state playoffs.”

The top three in the South Allegheny order – senior Trenton Popovich, Nesky and senior Jaxson Champ – went a combined 4 for 9 with three walks and four runs in 12 total plate appearances.

“It was a disappointing loss to Riverside, and I felt we had a lot of opportunities in that last game. We just didn’t execute,” coach Pohodich said.

“But they came ready to play today. I told them to give me two more weeks. Our senior leadership has been amazing. I think we can make a run at a state title. I think we’re built to do it with our arms and our defense. Offensively, we’ve got to scrap some runs together.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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