Avonworth sophomore delivers walk-off hit against Burrell in Class 3A semifinals

Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | 10:46 PM

Sophomore third baseman Jack Dolan was the hero for Avonworth on Tuesday in its WPIAL Class 3A baseball semifinal game against Burrell at North Allegheny.

He singled to center with one out in the bottom of the eighth to score right fielder Alex Rowe to give the Antelopes a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the No. 14 Bucs and send them to the WPIAL championship game next week at Washington’s Wild Things Park.

“My first three at-bats weren’t that great,” said Dolan, who struck out in his first two plate appearances and grounded to short in his third. “I tried to calm my breathing down. I just looked for a good pitch to hit, and I got one.

“This is so special to do this as a team. Everyone on this team is like a brother to me. It means so much to play for a title after the three straight WPIAL semifinal losses.”

The No. 7 Antelopes (15-8) advance to the title game seeking their first WPIAL championship since 1992.

While the right side of the bracket featured some chaos with No. 7 and No. 14 making it through to the semifinals, there was a little more order on the left side

Top seed Riverside punched its ticket to the championship game with 2-0 victory over No. 4 South Allegheny in Tuesday’s other semifinal contest at North Allegheny.

“I am just so proud of the guys for the way they fought and hung in there against a really good Burrell team,” Avonworth coach Jeff Bywalski said.

Despite the loss, Burrell has at least two more postseason games starting with the third-place game against South Allegheny next week on a date and at a site and time to be determined.

Both teams clinched a spot in the state playoffs by virtue of making the semifinals.

“That is baseball,” Bucs coach Jay Miller said. “I am really proud of the way we stayed composed with ourselves. We battled through adversity. When we made a mistake, we didn’t let it lead to two. Situations happen, and the ball is going to roll against you sometimes.

“I think it will be good to have something for them to refocus on. They want to keep playing ball as much as they can. We are a gritty group, and we want that next game.”

Rowe started the Avonworth rally in the bottom of the eighth by reaching on a throwing error from Burrell second baseman Ryan Bates with one out. Shortstop Brandon Sapolsky then drew a walk off of Bucs starter Isaac Lacinski to put two runners on and bring Dolan to the plate.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Rowe got Avonworth started with a double down the left-field line.

He moved to third on Dolan’s ground out and then scored to tie the score when Lacinski uncorked a wild pitch.

“We talk all year that it’s about what we do,” Bywalski said. “We wanted to make sure we were on top of the baseball, hitting line drives and hitting ground balls. We knew we were going to see a pitcher (Lacinski) who probably throws a little lighter than we’re used to. We had to keep the ball out of the air, and all night, we put it in the air.

“We probably had two really good hits: Alex’s double down the line in the corner in left and then Jack’s hit to win it. When we do those things, we’re a tough baseball team to beat. We took advantage of our opportunities. It was great to see.”

Lacinski went the whole way for Burrell. He gave up just four hits and two walks while striking out six.

His performance came on the heels of Stevie Hasson’s complete-game two-hitter in Burrell’s 1-0 quarterfinal win over Neshannock on Monday at Seneca Valley.

“That was probably the best I’ve seen him pitch all season,” Miller said. “I’ve seen him be super efficient like that in the past, and he was that way tonight. He continued to throw strikes, never went away from the off-speed pitch, and found it as he got later in the game. He kept them off balance. He’s just a great baseball player and a great kid.”

Avonworth starter Aidan Tinker, a senior, finished the top of the seventh right at 100 pitches. He left the game with the one earned run and five hits surrendered, 10 strikeouts, and no walks.

Senior Jacob Hanny came on in the eighth and retired Burrell in order to pick up the victory.

Burrell’s lone run of the game for 1-0 lead came in the third. Shortstop Dylan McKallip singled with one out and then stole second. Lacinski helped his own cause with a clutch two-out double to left to plate McKallip.

Burrell left a runner stranded at second in the second, third, fifth, and seventh innings.

The Bucs got back-to-back singles from first baseman Mike McKay and right fielder Justin Hyland with no outs in the seventh, but they were not able to advance as Tinker struck out two and got a third out with a flyout to center.

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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