Brennan powers Serra Catholic past Neshannock in PIAA quarterfinals
Thursday, June 6, 2019 | 9:14 PM
With teams intentionally walking standout catcher Mark Black regularly in the playoffs, Serra Catholic baseball coach Brian Dzurenda decided to move him from third in the order to the leadoff spot, which put Pat Brennan in Black’s old spot.
Brennan accepted his new spot as a challenge to become the guy that came up with clutch hits.
And he did so in a big way on Thursday.
Brennan doubled, singled and drove in three runs, and combined with some excellent small ball execution the Eagles rolled to a 9-1 victory over Neshannock in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals at Shaler’s Matulevic Field.
With two runners on in the top of the first, Brennan smacked a double to left-center field that one-hopped the fence, and Black and Alex Glumac came into score. Brennan added an RBI single in a four-run sixth inning.
“Mark and I sort of flipped flopped spots in the order, and whenever we did that I looked at myself as the guy who had to drive in runs,” said Brennan, Serra’s lone senior starter. “That’s what I’ve been doing these last two games. I’m just trying to take advantage of having runners on and hitting them in.”
Serra Catholic (22-3) beat the Lancers (19-4) for the second time in two weeks and advanced to Monday’s state semifinals where it will face Section 3 rival Seton LaSalle in a rematch of the WPIAL championship, which the Rebels won 11-2.
The Eagles defeated Neshannock, 4-1, in the WPIAL semifinals, and Brennan said Thursday’s game had a similar feel.
While Brennan came through with some big hits, Serra Catholic also executed some bunts, put pressure on the defense and manufactured some runs.
A good example was in the fourth inning when the Eagles scored twice, and the ball left the infield once.
Jayden Mertz singled to lead off the inning and later Glumac reached on a fielder’s choice and moved to second on a stolen base. The Lancers walked Brennan intentionally to load the bases. Neshannock starter Matt Dubois threw a pitch to the backstop, which allowed Mertz to score, and catcher Matt Staph’s throw to Dubois covering home sailed high over his head and went all the way to the outfield, allowing Glumac to score.
“We went into the game thinking we had to small ball them,” Dzurenda said. “We have worked on it quite a bit during the playoffs, and it has served us well along the way. It’s just unbelievable that we are going to the state final four with three freshman and four sophomores in the starting lineup.”
The Eagles also scored four runs in the seventh with only two balls leaving the infield and one hit. With two runners on, Glumac laid down a perfect bunt down the third-base line that loaded the bases. Brennan followed with an RBI single, and Black scored on a wild pitch. Nico Eremic added an RBI on a fielder’s choice, and Dom DeMoss had a sacrifice fly to left field.
Glumac pitched four innings and allowed one unearned run to get the win for the second straight game after a strong outing against Moniteau on Monday.
He allowed only two hits and struck out three.
Glumac credited a tweak in his mechanics to helping him feel comfortable in his two state playoff outings.
“This is the first time where I felt like I got my velocity back. We found a new motion, and that helped me get that velocity back and now I should be fine.”
Preston Turk scored Neshannock’s lone run in the third inning when he raced home from third after an errant throw from second to first when the Eagles were trying to turn double play.
Monday’s state semifinal will be the fourth meeting for Serra Catholic and Seton LaSalle. The Eagles took the first meeting, and the Rebels have won the last two.
Needless to say, the Eagles are anxious for a fourth crack at the Rebels, especially after losing in the WPIAL final.
“Both section games we played against them we’re real nail-biters,” Brennan said. “They were both good games, but in the WPIAL championship it wasn’t our day. This time, we’ll just see how it falls. We’ll be prepared. I think they look forward to playing us as much as we look forward to playing them. It should be a good one.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer