Defending champion Snappers come back to beat Mudcats in Game 1 of DNL Finals

Saturday, August 8, 2020 | 9:56 PM

Brandon Whitfield had three hits and drove in four runs as the defending champion Snappers knocked off Quinn Construction Mudcats, 7-3, in Game 1 of the best-of-three Daily News League championship series.

The DNL is in its 92nd year of summer baseball for high school, college and post-college players.

The league’s top two teams are meeting in the finals for a third straight year with the Mudcats winning in 2018 and the Snappers claiming the title last summer.

Whitfield, a Langley grad, broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the bottom of the third inning to give the Snappers a 1-0 lead.

The Mudcats took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth when Logan Simmons (Plum) doubled home Jake Walker (West Mifflin), who had walked with two outs. Simmons then scored on Jake McCaskey’s (Deer Lakes) bloop single to right field.

Whitfield tied the score with a long home run to left field in the bottom of the fifth inning.

“I’m just comfortable right now. I’ve been having a pretty decent season at the plate,” Whitfield said. “I joke with the guys all the time, ‘I’m going deep with my next at-bat.’ It just so happened I was able to get one.”

The Mudcats reclaimed the lead in the top of the sixth inning on a single by Mike Huber (Thomas Jefferson) that scored Tarran Senay (South Park).

However, with the bases loaded, Snappers ace Josh Lapiana (Chartiers Valley) struck out Walker and Simmons to keep the score, 3-2, in the Mudcats’ favor.

“We got a really good catcher and a good team behind us,” Lapiana said. “The breaking ball was good (Saturday). I try to rely on the breaking ball a little more than try to throw the fast ball for strikes.”

With the Snappers down one, the defending champs came back in a big way in the bottom of the sixth.

“I put this game solely on me,” said Mudcats manager and DNL 32-year veteran Tom Simcho. “A lot of my decisions went wrong today, so I put it on me. We got to come back (Sunday), and we’re going to be back here on Monday.”

One of those decisions Simcho referred to was lifting Mudcats starting pitcher Luke Hils (Central Catholic). He had allowed two runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts when Jon Leber (West Allegheny) singled and Nick Maue (Moon) popped a bunt back to Hils.

A change was made and Easton Klein (Brentwood) was brought in to relieve Hils.

Six of the next seven Snappers battered reached base as a 3-2 deficit became a 7-3 lead. Mike McCarthy (Baldwin) tied the game with a sacrifice fly. Anthony Fanelli (Hempfield) drew a bases-loaded walk before Whitfield singled in two runs. Pinch-hitter Tyler Holland (Baldwin) added a run-scoring single to conclude a five-run sixth inning.

“We’ve been doing it all year,” Snappers manager Clarke White said of his team’s comeback. “We get down, and we know we’re going to come back. Our offense is relentless. They know they’re going to hit, and we always know we’re going to score.”

Lapiana retired the Mudcats in order in the seventh inning for the complete game victory. He allowed three runs on seven hits, but walked only two and struck out 11.

“He’s unbelievable,” White said of Lapiana. “He’s been doing it all year for us. He’s by far our ace. We know we have confidence in him. No doubt about it this was his game.”

Game 2 is set for Sunday at Winklevoss Park in West Mifflin as the host Mudcats need to win to force a decisive third game of the series.

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