Indiana’s 1st appearance in PIAA baseball finals ends with walk-off loss to Holy Ghost Prep

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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | 6:21 PM


STATE COLLEGE — Indiana reached the state finals for the first time, but like the WPIAL championship two weeks earlier, the Little Indians again watched someone else celebrate.

Holy Ghost Prep’s Mathew Riendeau lined a seventh-inning double into left field for a walk-off win over Indiana, 6-5, in the PIAA Class 4A final Thursday at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Riendeau’s one-out hit scored Colin Davis, who‘d singled one batter earlier.

“It’s tough,” Indiana coach Dan Petroff said. “The hard part is I feel for my seniors. I’ll use it as motivation for our young guys. We’ll get back to the weight room in a couple of weeks, but we’re going to let this settle in.

“This was a loss, but there were two winners here in my opinion. You make the state finals, it’s not easy to do. A lot has to go your way, and it did.”

Indiana had a 5-2 lead before Holy Ghost Prep rallied with one run in the fifth, two in the sixth and one more in the seventh. It was maybe a little reminiscent of the WPIAL finals loss, where Indiana had a four-run lead get away.

The team left Penn State’s field understandably disappointed, but also appreciative.

“It felt good to finally be the one team to (reach the state finals) in our school history,” said senior Ben Ryan, who homered twice and scored three times. “Coming up short, it hurts a lot since we came this far. But there are a lot of positives to look at within our season.”

Indiana (16-11) entered the WPIAL playoffs as only a No. 9 seed, yet the Little Indians got hot in the playoffs and pushed their season into June.

“They’re hurting, but it’s a heck of a journey for our guys,” Petroff said. “I don’t want to put one game on our whole season, because I think we had a great season.”

Ryan and Charlie Manzi each had two hits and two RBIs for Indiana.

This was the first state title for District 1 champion Holy Ghost Prep (16-8), which lost to Montour in the 2022 finals. The Firebirds started seven sophomores, including Davis and Riendeau, whose hits combined for the winning run.

Sophomore leadoff batter Jake Keaser, a Virginia Tech commit, was twice hit by a pitch and scored both times.

“We talk about playing 21 hard outs every time we touch the field,” Holy Ghost coach Greg Olenski said. “Every out matters, and our guys really bought into that from day one.”

Indiana starter Greg Minnick held Holy Ghost to three runs on one hit through four innings, but the Texas Tech recruit struggled with his control and allowed three runs. The right-handed junior walked three and hit three others, including the last batter he faced before reliever Ryan Okopal took over.

Minnick was replaced after 69 pitches, one batter into the fifth.

“We knew (Minnick) was a great power arm and we knew his stuff was electric,” Olenski said. “We knew he could get a little bit wild. … We just got the best of him today. He held us to one hit, so we were just there grinding out at-bats.”

Holy Ghost reliever Benjamin McNab pitched 2⅓ scoreless innings for the win. He replaced starter Justin Lucas, who allowed five runs on six hits and two walks in 4⅔ innings.

Indiana led 5-2 after scoring three runs in the fifth inning with two hits, two walks, a sacrifice fly and a Holy Ghost error.

Ryan, a Quinnipiac recruit, provided Indiana’s first two runs with solo homers in the first and fourth innings. Both were blasts that easily cleared the fence, prompting Holy Ghost to intentionally walk Ryan in the fifth and seventh.

“I don’t hear very many balls, but I heard both of them,” said Petroff, who coaches third base. “Those balls were hit as hard as any. … I don’t care if it’s MLB or Japan, those were the two hardest balls I’ve seen hit in a long, long time.”

The homers upped Ryan’s team-leading total to eight. He also entered the championship as Indiana’s leader in batting average, RBIs and extra base hits.

“Looking at all of their numbers, we knew Ben Ryan was their best guy,” Olenski said. “We knew he was the only guy that could really kill us, and he did. He hit two balls that are probably still traveling.”

Holy Ghost scored one run apiece in the second and third innings for a 2-1 lead.

In the second, Riendeau drew a two-out walk and scored from first base on a fly ball that dropped in left field for an error. The clear skies and overhead sun caused trouble for outfielders.

In the third, Minnick hit the first two Holy Ghost batters and walked the third to load the bases. Tyler Bergkoetter followed with an RBI single that scored Keaser, but Holy Ghost left the bases loaded when Minnick escaped with an inning-ending strikeout.

Indiana retook the lead with three runs in the fifth inning. Andrew McKee drove in one with a sacrifice fly. After Ryan and Hunter Martin walked, Manzi hit a two-run single for a 5-2 lead.

Holy Ghost rallied with one run in the fifth and two more in the sixth for a 5-5 tie.

Ryan was intentionally walked again in the seventh with one out and the bases empty. Indiana ended up stranding two runners in the inning.

“It’s pretty frustrating when you’re at a tied ballgame and you know you can do the job,” Ryan said. “To get the bat taken out of your hands, that hurts.”

Olenski called it an easy decision for anyone in Holy Ghost’s dugout.

“I think it was the smartest, most strategic move at that point,” Olenski said. “… The kid can swing the bat.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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