Greensburg Central Catholic edges Homer-Center in 9th inning in wild PIAA quarterfinal game

Thursday, June 7, 2018 | 9:36 PM

Someone had to take control and end this thing before it got out of control.

In a baseball game that, at times, offered little control on the mound, Greensburg Central Catholic prevailed in a wild, 12-11 quarterfinal-round victory in nine innings over District 6 champion Homer-Center on Thursday at North Allegheny to advance to the PIAA Class A semifinals.

“ ‘Find a way, not an excuse.' That's a slogan we've worn on T-shirts this year,” GCC coach Dennis Reist said. “The kids did that. They found a way. Somehow, some way, they kept fighting. Everyone contributed in some form.”

Bruce Kurpiel's RBI double in the top of the ninth gave GCC the go-ahead run, and the Centurions (16-6), the WPIAL's third-place team, held on. They will face WPIAL champion Vincentian Academy, a 10-0 winner over District 9 runner-up Oswayo Valley, in the semifinals Monday at a site to be determined.

Homer-Center (20-2), which suffered its only other loss to Serra Catholic on May 10, carried an 8-3 lead into the top of the seventh before GCC scored five runs on just one hit — a two-run single by winning pitcher Ethan Bailey — 6 walks and a hit batsman to force extra innings.

“That one's tough,” Homer-Center coach Scott Bauer said. “We had a five-run lead going into the top of the seventh. Unfortunately, someone's got to lose a game like that, and unfortunately, it was us.”

The game featured 22 walks — 17 by five Homer-Center pitchers — two hit batsmen and one catcher's interference, which occurred in the bottom of the ninth and prolonged the game for one more batter.

Bailey, the third GCC pitcher, was the winner after working out of a ninth-inning jam.

“It's just unbelievable,” Bailey said. “The last few innings were complete battles. Nobody on either team gave up.”

He got the final two outs on strikeouts sandwiched around the catcher's interference call on GCC's Paul Rice that allowed Homer-Center's Tim Alcon to reach first and load the bases with two outs.

“It was tough not to be disheartened when we were down 8-3 there in the last inning,” Reist said. “But our guys were going to die with their boots on. Ethan Bailey did a tremendous job.”

Homer-Center rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead in the fifth against Centurions starter James Rice on a fluke RBI triple by Nate Davis, whose fly ball was lost in the sky by center fielder Joel Lonigro, and two errors by GCC second baseman Antonio Cavallo.

Lonigro had trouble with fly balls all afternoon, seemingly losing them from the start.

“He was losing it off the bat,” Reist said. “We believe there were some white shirts in the stands, and that along with the high sky made it tough. Someone else had to step up. We had some errors, and I'm not going to pinpoint just one thing.”

Homer-Center added four runs in the sixth against Bruce Leonard, who came on in relief of starter James Rice but was unable to make it out of the inning before being relieved by Bailey.

Yet Greensburg CC somehow came back to tie it in the seventh.

The teams scored three runs apiece in the eighth. GCC took an 11-8 lead against relievers Austin Perry and Jesse Lee on only one hit along with four walks and an error. Homer-Center tied it against Bailey with three runs on an RBI single by Canyon Rankin and a two-run double by Dakota Sunday.

Homer-Center outhit GCC, 14-9, and committed two errors. The Centurions survived four errors of their own to win their third game in a row and fourth in the past five.

“It didn't matter who we put in there (to pitch),” Bauer said. “We had a hard time finding the zone. GCC battled back and tied it and eventually took the lead. And our guys battled back, too. No excuses. Everybody was going to give us their best game, and today we got that from GCC. These guys prepared for that every day. It was fun to watch and fun to be a part of.”

Kurpiel had three hits, and Cavallo drove in three runs for the Centurions.

Davis led Homer-Center with four hits and three RBIs, and Sunday had four RBIs for the Wildcats.

Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.

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