After knocking off state’s No. 1-ranked team, Penn-Trafford baseball stares down WPIAL champs

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Wednesday, June 7, 2023 | 8:08 PM


Penn-Trafford coach Lou Cortazzo was a second baseman for the Warriors in 1981 when his team upset Greensburg Salem in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

In that game, Greensburg Salem coach Dale Hassinger decided to rest his ace left-hander, the late Curt Zucco, to face powerful Connellsville in the next round. While Zucco warmed up numerous times, he never threw a pitch and Penn-Trafford won the game.

Though Penn-Trafford lost to the Falcons in the final inning of the next game, Cortazzo, who made a game-saving play against Greensburg Salem, has a vivid memory of that game.

It was a little deja vu Monday during the opening round of the PIAA Class 5A playoffs for Cortazzo. He just hopes for a different result.

His Warriors defeated No. 1-ranked Central Mountain, 8-5, in a game where the Central Mountain coach decided not to start No. 1 pitcher Brody Myers and save him for a possible meeting with WPIAL champion Shaler.

Penn-Trafford jumped out to leads of 3-1 and 5-1 and cruised to the victory.

Now it’s the Warriors who will face Shaler at 2 p.m. Thursday at Gateway. Shaler rallied to defeat Muhlenberg, 7-1, in the opening round.

Penn-Trafford (16-6) made history with the victory, the program’s first state playoff win.

“I learned that you can’t look ahead. You have to focus on the game in front of you,” Cortazzo said. “We wanted to represent the school well, and we did. Winning that first playoff game was special.”

“We played our game. We wanted to put pressure on them. Everyone contributed.”

Junior Ian Temple went 3 for 3 with a home run and three RBIs. Brady Lane and Brody Hoffman had three hits apiece, Chuck Fontana contributed a double, and Carmen Metcalfe had a two-run single.

The pitching tandem of Nolan Marasti and Ryan Grabowski did a good job shutting down Central Mountain’s potent offense.

Central Mountain coach Mike Kramer said: “We had a plan. We wanted to work that plan, and we just had to make adjustments as the game went on. Penn-Trafford was just a better team.”

Cortazzo said his team had nothing to lose being the underdog against the No. 1 team in the state.

“We came in confident of our abilities,” Cortazzo said. “These guys were pumped up and looked forward to this game. Jumping on them early was the key, and now we’re focused on Shaler.”

Shaler’s ace, Miguel Hugas, pitched the first three innings Monday before being pulled with the Titans trailing 1-0. He allowed six hits.

Cortazzo said he expects his team will face the Shaler ace.

Hugas went 2 for 4 with two doubles and four RBIs to lead Shaler (20-4) against Muhlenberg.

Luke Jarzynka and Colby McGuire each had an RBI, and Colby Weber got the win for the Titans.

Hugas shined in the WPIAL championship game, a 10-1 win against Bethel Park. The native of Venezuela struck out eight in a dominant complete game. The 6-foot-3 right-hander threw a five-hitter with only one walk. He didn’t allow a runner until the fourth inning.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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