GCC baseball can’t slow Vincentian’s hit parade in PIAA semis

Monday, June 11, 2018 | 7:24 PM

All season, Greensburg Central Catholic carried a baseball from its 2017 PIAA semifinal loss, hoping for a return to the round and a better result.

The Centurions accomplished the first half of that goal, but Vincentian Academy quashed any thoughts of redemption early.

Behind a blistering offensive performance, Vincentian rolled to an 11-0, five-inning victory over Greensburg Central Catholic in a PIAA Class A semifinal game Monday afternoon at Wild Things Park in Washington.

The WPIAL champion Royals, who advanced to Friday's state championship game against District 5 runner-up Southern Fulton, picked up their third consecutive mercy-rule victory since the PIAA playoffs began. They have outscored their three state playoff opponents 31-0 and will go for their second title in three seasons Friday.

“They flat-out can hit,” GCC coach Dennis Reist said. “We threw three different pitchers. They hit them all. What are you going to do? It wasn't like it was a bad call here or there or our kids gave up. They just hit the ball.”

It was par for the course for Vincentian, which is outscoring teams 55-1 during its seven-game winning streak. The Royals scored three runs in the first, two in the second and six in the third to put the potential mercy rule into effect.

All nine starters reached base for Vincentian, which finished with 12 hits. Leadoff hitter Mark Yakim led the way with three hits, including a triple, and Kyler Fedko, Nate Christian and Sean McGrail had two hits apiece. Christian and Dan Morgano drove in three runs each.

“We're coming out with good approaches. We're finding fastballs,” Yakim said. “Once someone starts hitting, I think everyone just wants to keep hitting. It is contagious.”

GCC (16-7) hoped to see Vincentian in the WPIAL championship game last month before losing in the semifinals. The Centurions got the meeting after battling into the state playoffs as the WPIAL's third-place team.

But after earning a pair of one-run wins in its first two PIAA games, including a wild comeback victory over Homer-Center in the quarterfinals, GCC's run came to an abrupt end in the same round as last season. Clarion beat the Centurions, 1-0, in the 2017 semifinals.

“They stayed close (over the year). They picked each other up. They didn't get down on each other,” Reist said. “I think that's the important thing. They stayed as a family, and I even think through the end, they stayed as a family.”

Reist went with an “all hands on deck” pitching approach, using starter Antonio Cavallo and relievers James Rice and Ethan Bailey.

Different pitch types, different pitching motions — nothing much mattered against Vincentian's lineup. Morgano's sacrifice fly and Christian's two-run single made it 3-0 in the bottom of the first, and Yakim's triple and Jake Stotsky's single brought in a pair of runs in the second.

Then came a six-run third, where Vincentian sent 11 batters to the plate and had five hits, highlighted by two-run singles from McGrail and Morgano.

“We're just playing very good baseball at a very good time of the season,” Vincentian coach Brad Bestic said. “They have a ton of confidence. It's a senior-heavy team. Their goal was to get back to states like we were two years ago, and now, here we are.”

Vincentian starter Aidan Thomson limited GCC to two hits in five innings, striking out five.

The Centurions' best scoring chance came in the top of the second, when consecutive two-out errors put runners on first and third. But Thomson caught Joel Lonigro off first base with a pickoff throw, and during the ensuing rundown, Royals first baseman Christian threw home to get courtesy runner Alex Miller trying to score.

“Their pitcher threw strikes, (and) he worked ahead,” Reist said. “It was tough. But to get this far, two years in a row being at the state semifinals, for a group that's pretty good.”

Two weeks after its first WPIAL title, Vincentian will look to cap its year with another title at 10:30 a.m. Friday against Southern Fulton at Penn State.

“We're hoping to keep our winning ways alive and bring home a championship again,” Yakim said.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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