Another WPIAL champ falls as Moniteau trips up Seton LaSalle

Monday, June 3, 2024 | 10:00 PM

On Wednesday, Seton LaSalle played a complete game in all facets and blanked Serra Catholic to win a second straight WPIAL Class 2A baseball championship.

A day earlier, Moniteau lost a heartbreaker in the District 9 2A title game, falling to Redbank Valley in nine innings.

Less than a week later, the script was flipped for both teams Monday in a PIAA first-round playoff game at the Boyce-Mayview Complex in Upper St. Clair. Moniteau built an early lead and held on to upset Seton LaSalle, 5-3.

Was it a rough case of a WPIAL championship hangover?

“I don’t know what you call it, but it was Moniteau capitalizing on our mistakes is what is comes down to,” Seton LaSalle coach Brad Bestic said. “Hats off to them, they put the ball in play and they put the pressure on us, and we just made some uncharacteristic errors.”

Moniteau junior second baseman Connor Ealy got the ball rolling when he reached on an error in the top of the first inning and later scored on a two-out single by sophomore Ian Ross.

“I definitely think we scared them right off the bat, because any WPIAL team is not going to think Moniteau is going to come out and beat them,” Ealy said. “If we come out and put it on them at the very beginning, it’s huge.”

The Warriors’ hits kept coming while the mistakes kept mounting for the Rebels in the top of the third inning.

Senior Chason Rugg led off the top of the third for Moniteau with a base hit. That was followed by an Ealy single and a run-producing hit by senior Dawson Wallace.

The first of two more Seton LaSalle errors in the inning on a possible force out at third base loaded the bases with no outs for the Warriors.

Ross hit a sacrifice fly, Dawson Cook singled home a run, and James Gillen laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to increase the Moniteau lead to 5-0.

“We were just executing,” Ealy said. “Shout out to my teammate James Gillen for getting that suicide squeeze down. That was huge. Just putting the ball in play and putting pressure on the other team is huge. We know we’re a great defensive team, and if we can put some runs across the board, we know we’ll do all right.”

Seton LaSalle answered in the bottom of the third inning, but missed out on doing much more damage.

Following walks to the Rebels’ No. 8 and 9 hitters, Brayden Carter and Domenic Breisinger, by Wallace, the Warriors’ starting pitcher, Aric White pushed a bunt past the pitcher for a single to load the bases with no outs.

Mike Todd then hit a ground ball to the first baseman, whose low throw was not handled by the catcher, allowing Carter to score a Rebels run and kept the bases loaded.

Following a strikeout by freshman sensation John Burkholder, Mark Weber hit a sacrifice fly to right field for the second out.

Another walk by Wallace loaded the bases, but a comebacker to the mound by Roman LoNero limited the damage.

“We’ve been so good at timely hitting throughout the year, but this was just one of those days when we didn’t have it,” Bestic said. “That’s disappointing, but they fielded the ball exceptionally well. We hit a ton of hard balls that they made some really nice plays on.”

Wallace pitched six strong innings to get the win for Moniteau. He allowed two earned runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

“Everything was working,” Wallace said of his pitching repertoire. “I was just getting ahead in the count and knowing the hitters. We knew who had speed and who could hit the ball well. I was just going after them and not getting behind in counts, which was big.”

The Rebels scored a run in the bottom of the seventh and had the tying run at first base, but again could not get the big hit.

Seton LaSalle starter Nate Baxendale suffered the loss, allowing five runs, only two of which were earned, on six hits in 2⅓ innings. Burkholder was perfect for 4⅔ innings of relief.

Moniteau improves to 13-8 and advances to the PIAA quarterfinals to play District 6 champion Bald Eagle Area (21-2) at a site to be determined.

White led Seton LaSalle with three hits as the season ends for two-time WPIAL Class 2A champions at 17-4.

The Rebels were once again without the WPIAL’s leading hitter, senior Gio LoNero, who was suspended after getting ejected from a WPIAL semifinal victory over OLSH when he used profanity toward his brother and teammate, Roman LoNiro.

“It’s been a couple of games without him, so obviously we game planned for him not being there,” Bestic said. “When you have that type of player all year, absolutely, you want the leading hitter in the WPIAL to be there. But the reality is, we knew that coming in here that we weren’t going to have him. We needed our other guys to do whatever it took to win this game.”


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