Latrobe baseball knocks off No. 1 Montour, advances to WPIAL Class 4A championship

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Tuesday, May 23, 2023 | 9:30 PM


Unshakable and driven, Latrobe pushed on in the WPIAL baseball playoffs with another upset.

Down went No. 1.

Here comes No. 5.

Determined to make believers of the seeding committee, Latrobe came out swinging, loosening its grip on a sizable lead before finally holding off top-seeded Montour, 10-7, in a marathon WPIAL Class 4A semifinal that took over three hours to complete Tuesday at Boyce-Mayview Park in Upper St. Clair.

Yes, these Wildcats belong in the finals.

They bounced around the infield to celebrate, high-fiving and patting one another on the shoulder, surely feeling the chip.

“Going in as the No. 5 seed, we weren’t happy about it,” said Wildcats sophomore Eli Boring, who went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. “We took it to heart.”

The Wildcats (17-6), who beat No. 4 Chartiers Valley, 4-2, in the quarterfinals, advance to the WPIAL championship for the first time since 2017 when they won WPIAL and PIAA titles in 5A.

They will meet another underdog, albeit a greater one, in No. 14 Hopewell (11-11), a 7-5 winner over No. 7 Indiana, next Tuesday or Wednesday at Wild Things Park in Washington.

Latrobe rallied from a 2-0 deficit after one to take an 8-2 lead in the third.

Montour (19-4), the defending PIAA champion and WPIAL runner-up the last two years, cut it to 8-7 in the sixth before Latrobe added some breathing room in the seventh.

“This team finds a way,” Latrobe coach Matt Basciano said. “It does whatever it takes to win. It’s that simple. This game was about them staying the course, and they did that.”

Pitchers were in short supply in a game prolonged by lengthy counts, foul tips, and constant movement on the base paths.

Latrobe started junior Riley Smith, who went 5 1/3 innings and surrendered five runs before reaching 107 pitches.

Montour used four pitchers, who combined for 188 pitches, including starter Vinnie Markulen, who was chased after 2 2/3 innings

Nick Walker, who had a game-high five RBIs, threw 80 pitches in 3 1/3 innings.

Smith earned his first playoff win, striking out six and scattering five hits.

“It was good for us to chase their No. 1 early,” Basciano said. “Riley settled after the first inning. Our offense gave us the lead, and we refused to lose. It’s so rewarding to see so many guys buying into the team concept. Again, the Barbie car goes to everyone.”

The Spartans gave up seven walks and two unearned runs.

After the Spartans took an early 2-0 lead, Latrobe rallied for five runs over the next two innings, including four in the third.

Two runs scored on passed balls that ended up in front of the catcher.

Boring ripped a two-run double before Smith chipped in an RBI single to make it 5-2.

Senior Anthony Massari knocked in a run with single, and a wild pitch gave the Wildcats another run and a 7-2 lead in the fourth.

An error, obstruction call and two walks plagued Montour in the frame, which saw Smith drive in another run with an infield single for an 8-2 advantage.

Latrobe, which had a baserunner in every inning, loaded the bases in the third, fourth and sixth innings. But it failed to score the last time, as the Spartans ended the sixth with a double play.

They used the momentum to score four times in the sixth, sending eight hitters to the plate and loading the bases after three straight walks, the third one making it 8-3.

With two outs and the bases still full, Walker roped a three-run triple into the right-field corner, and suddenly it was 8-7.

“Our pitchers were ready,” Basciano said. “Riley did a great job and went after them. (Sophomore) Luke (Nipar) did a nice job in the seventh.”

Nipar had some breathing room in the final inning — a 10-7 lead — thanks to an RBI single by junior Jake Cramer and a sacrifice fly by Boring in the top of the frame.

Nipar struck out two batters, then forced a groundout to end it.

“Coach Bas kept our heads in it,” Smith said. “If we get down, we know we can come back. We were up today and were feeling confident.”

Amatucci, Cramer and Smith had two hits apiece. Boring and senior Logan Bradish each doubled. Amatucci and Bradish each scored three times.

Markulin and Brock Janeda doubled for the Spartans.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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