Blackhawk scores 10 unanswered runs to cruise by Highlands into Class 4A semifinals

Monday, May 24, 2021 | 7:54 PM

Heading into Monday’s WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinal matchup against Blackhawk, Highlands had been playing some of its best baseball.

The Golden Rams had won their past six games and outscored their opponents 41-4, but their next foe, the No. 4 Cougars (15-4), were a different story.

The No. 6 Golden Rams (13-8) scored first, but the Cougars scored 10 unanswered runs, and starting pitcher Alex Tomsic scattered eight hits with a heavy dose of breaking balls in a 10-2 victory.

“What can I say? We ran into a buzz saw,” Highlands coach Jeff Campbell said. “They hit the ball. They hit it with runners on base. They moved people up when they had to. We hit the ball. We just didn’t get hits together.”

Blackhawk will play No. 7 New Castle on Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. at Hampton.

After Trent Bielak grounded into a double play at the beginning of the second inning, Tanner Nulph hit a towering double to left-center and came around to score on an RBI single by DJ Loveland. Then things started to go Blackhawk’s way.

The Cougars scored their first run when sophomore right fielder Jarrod Malagise tallied a leadoff single and scored with the bases loaded when he took off for home on a straight steal. Highlands starting pitcher Jett Slepak balked in the middle of his windup, and Malagise was awarded home.

It was the type of play the Cougars needed to open the floodgates.

“With that brings confidence to our guys. It brings excitement to our guys,” Blackhawk coach Lou Wolber said. “Then it also gets us over the hump of, ‘OK, we scored. Let’s keep pressing.’ So that was good it gave us a jump start and got people going.”

Jarrod’s twin brother, Anthony, who went 2 for 3 with three RBIs, jump-started the Cougars bats in the next inning with a two-run double into the left-center gap, then Tomsic helped himself by driving in Anthony Malagise with a single to make it 4-1.

From there, the Cougars scored three more runs in the fourth and three in the sixth to put the game out of reach.

Although Tomsic probably appreciated the run support, the senior who transferred to Blackhawk after Quigley Catholic closed its doors last year didn’t necessarily need it.

Tomsic kept Highland’s hitters off balance with off-speed pitches and stranded seven Highlands runners.

“He’s locked in near game time, and he does things here that I don’t really see at practice,” Wolber said. “He’s a gamer for us.”

The loss was Highlands’ first since May 4, when it suffered a 12-5 defeat against Freeport, but this one might stick with the Golden Rams a little longer.

They had played Blackhawk twice earlier in the season and dropped both contests in close fashion. And while they will lose eight seniors, they will return the pitching and the bats of Nulph, Jett Slepak and Jimmy Kunst. Campbell believes this loss will motivate them into next year.

“We played them three times this year, and they got us all three times,” Campbell said. “I think they know they can play with them, and I think it will give them something to work for over the summer and into the winter. They won’t forget about this, either.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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