Latrobe Wins First WPIAL Baseball Title With Win Over Mars
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 | 11:54 PM
The last time the Latrobe Wildcats played in a WPIAL Championship baseball game, things were much different than they are now, in 2017.
On May 30, 1985, Latrobe lost to Bethel Park in the Class AAA title game. Gas was $1.20 per gallon, Ronald Reagan was the President and there were only two classifications in the WPIAL.
On May 31, 2017, Latrobe won its first ever baseball crown by defeating another team looking for its first championship, in its first championship appearance, Mars, by a final of 6-2.
Coming into the game, both coaches, Matt Basciano of Latrobe and Andy Bednar of Mars, emphasized the importance of their team getting and holding an early lead.
Latrobe did just that, scoring five runs in the second inning as the visitors in the game in a wild half-inning.
After senior shortstop Ryan Shawley struck out to begin the frame, senior second baseman Dan Stas singled. After another strikeout for sophomore Will Bednar on the mound, Latrobe ripped off five straight hits, ending with an RBI double off the bat of junior designated hitter Griffin Clark that made it 5-0. Helped by a couple of errors in the inning, Latrobe seized an opportunity early.
The Fightin’ Planets would respond in the home second, however, putting up two runs, scoring their first on a crazy, three-rundown fielder’s choice to make it 5-1, and the second on a run-scoring single by sophomore right fielder Rowen Fletcher.
The next two innings went as the before-game expectations would have scripted them, just one baserunner, that for Mars in the third, and 12 outs recorded with no runs coming in to score. Latrobe then added an insurance run in the fifth inning when Shawley singled in a run, plating Virginia Tech recruit and draft-hopeful Zach Kokoska, who finished the day 2-for-3 with a pair of runs scored.
The biggest success story of the day though for the Wildcats was their starting pitcher. Tabbed as the No. 1 and championship-game starter, senior Jared Kolar, a Seton Hill commit, pitched a complete game, allowing four hits, striking out seven and yielding two earned runs. He was one of three very good options for the Wildcats on the mound, and he pitched with confidence even after a rough second inning.
Bednar pitched an inning and two-thirds for Mars and got the loss after allowing eight hits and striking out three, but was charged with five runs, all earned in the short outing.
Frank Craska, who came on in relief, yielded a run on four hits and struck out two, while walking two and hitting one over the course of 5.1 innings. He got a no decision.
Latrobe got multi-hit performances from senior catcher Tyler Roble, Kokoska, Clark and senior left fielder Antonio Noble, while Mars got a triple from senior left fielder Brandon Wetherholt.
For Latrobe, it’s the first baseball crown in school history and for Mars, the Fightin’ Planets will have to try again to get over the hump and win a title.
Both teams move on to the PIAA Class 5A tournament and will face District 3 teams in the first round Monday, but for now, Latrobe celebrates a title and confirms that the spelling of the first ever WPIAL Class 5A Champion goes like this: L.A.T.R.O.B.E.