Kiski Area baseball uses dramatic win over Armstrong to qualify for playoffs

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 | 8:46 PM

Ryne Wallace arrived to Kiski Area’s do-or-die section finale 15 minutes before first pitch because of advanced placement tests, but the senior got there in plenty of time to place the Cavaliers in the playoffs.

Wallace’s bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth inning scored Ethan Guercio, giving Kiski Area an 8-7 walk-off win over Armstrong in a winner-take-all game for the final Section 1-5A playoff spot.

“It was a team effort, for sure,” said Wallace, who had three hits and three RBIs. “Scoring eight runs, you don’t just do it on your own. Everybody produced. Everybody came up clutch.

“It was just my turn, and I just took care of business. Guys got on for me, and we handled it and got the win.”

Kiski Area (9-9, 6-6), which snapped a two-year playoff drought, passed a resiliency test. The Cavaliers led by three runs early but needed to score three in the bottom of the seventh just to force extra innings, with Wallace driving in the tying run with a two-out single.

“Everyone stepped up,” Wallace said. “Everyone knew we weren’t out. It’s not over till it’s over, and our team always fights.”

The three-run rally in the seventh boosted Kiski Area into extra innings. Reliever Nick Smith blanked Armstrong (8-9, 4-8) in the eighth and ninth innings, striking out four, and The Cavaliers finally broke through in the ninth.

Guercio began the bottom of the ninth with a double — his third hit of the game — off Armstrong reliever Eddie Morris. After an intentional walk and hit batter by reliever Lane Peat loaded the bases with no outs, Wallace drilled a grounder through the right side, Guercio raced home and the Cavaliers players and a large student cheering section mobbed Wallace in right field.

“This felt like a football game,” said Kiski Area coach Aaron Albert, who got the requisite Gatorade shower.

At the very least it felt like a playoff game for Kiski Area, which won a combined six games the last two years. The Cavaliers saw a five-run lead slip away Monday at Gateway with a chance to clinch a playoff spot, and they were down to their final out Wednesday.

Guercio’s RBI single and Billy Perroz’s RBI groundout cut Armstrong’s lead to one in the bottom of the seventh, and Wallace chopped a single into right to tie it.

“We’ve done this all year,” Albert said. “I really mean this: I’ve coached a lot of great teams and been a part of coaching a lot of great teams, but they’re a real team. … They’re happy for each other. When you’re doing that, you’re never out of a game.”

Armstrong forced Wednesday’s do-or-die game with a comeback victory Monday over Fox Chapel, and the River Hawks looked poised for another impressive win over a Kiski Area, which they beat earlier this season.

After Kiski Area took a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the first, highlighted by a Ryan Rametta two-run triple, Armstrong tied it in the third on a Morris single and Zack Streightif two-run double.

Noah Cyphert gave Armstrong the lead with a solo homer to right off Rametta in the fifth, and the River Hawks added two more in the top of the seventh on a Morris homer and Garrett Kelley fielder’s choice.

“There’s good hitters on both teams,” Armstrong coach Ed Morris said. “Pitchers make mistakes, and they’ll make them pay. They hit the ball well today. We hit the ball well. We just needed to have a little better execution.”

Kiski Area finished with 14 hits, and though the Cavaliers stranded 13 baserunners, they got the big hit when it counted.

“You’ve just got to get into the playoffs,” Wallace said. “Once you get into it, anything can happen, and it feels great.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, or via Twitter .

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