Blackhawk baseball advances to Class 4A final with walk-off win over New Castle

Wednesday, May 22, 2019 | 5:59 PM

With the score tied at 3-3 and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, Blackhawk baseball coach Bob Amalia offered some words of advice to junior infielder Marco Borello before he left the dugout.

“I just said, ‘Don’t be anxious. Hit your pitch, and we’ll go from there,’ ” said Amalia.

Borello looked at a first-pitch strike from New Castle reliever Brayden Cartwright then hit a hard chopper through the gap at second base to score Michael Hixenbaugh from third. That gave No. 4 seed Blackhawk a walk-off win over No. 9 New Castle, 4-3, in the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals Tuesday afternoon at Shaler’s Matulevic Field.

“I was walking up to the plate kind of nervous, and then I saw that first strike and it was kind of a bad call,” Borello said. “I was thinking I needed to look for the next one that was just like that. It was a curveball. I adjusted, went opposite field, and it was a base hit.”

The win puts Blackhawk (16-4) in the championship game against Section 2 rival in Beaver. The No. 6 seed Bobcats knocked off Yough, 7-2, to advance.

For New Castle (10-10), the loss marked the end to a historic run for the baseball program. The semifinal appearance was the Red Hurricane’s first in school history. After a quarterfinals game that took two days to finish because of a suspension for darkness Monday, New Castle coach, Bill Cook couldn’t have been happier for his team.

“What do you say to them on the bus now?” Cook said. “I just walked out (afterwards) and wanted them to see my face and see that I’m proud of every single one of them.

“We’re not even projected to be here, and that’s the beauty of it. It just didn’t fall our way today.”

The single through the gap marked a thrilling ending to a game that was controlled mostly by New Castle senior left-handed pitcher Vince Soukovich. With the amount of pitchers it took the Red Hurricane to get the quarterfinal win over top-seeded Greensburg Salem, New Castle was going to go as far as Soukovich led them.

“Vince is a great kid,” Cook said. “He’s a senior, and we asked a lot of him this year.”

Soukovich pitched six strong innings before being pulled in the seventh inning. He gave up seven hits and walked two.

The Cougars started to get to Soukovich in the fifth inning. New Castle held a 3-1 lead going into the inning, and Blackhawk scored twice to tie it. Borello hit a blooper to shallow left field to score junior Matthew Randza. Raymond Knallay hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Logan Kostial to tie it.

“The kids are very composed,” Amalia said.

The Cougars were the benefactor of clutch hitting, but the unsung hero was senior reliever Chris DeLuca. Deluca replaced starter Mario Borello, who pitched a strong first inning but got beat up in the second. DeLuca entered the game while the Red Hurricane found some two-out magic and scored three runs late in the lineup and took a 3-1 lead. DeLuca stopped the bleeding and got the Cougars out of a jam.

“I can’t say enough about Chris DeLuca: 4 1/3 shutout innings when things looked bleak.” Amalia said “These kids believe in each other and play for each other and come through when it’s time to play.”

DeLuca expected to see some action but not in the second inning.

“I wasn’t really expecting to come in that early,” he said. “I started to warm up. My curve ball felt really good, and I was throwing it as hard as I possibly could.”

After last season’s first-round loss, Amalia will take the win.

“This is a great feeling,” Amalia said. “Honestly, it took me half the summer to get over (last season’s playoff) loss.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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