Looking to leave slow start behind, Central Catholic drops Mt. Lebanon

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 | 10:21 PM

A year ago, the Mt. Lebanon baseball team became the poster children for surviving a horrible start only to finish at the top of the district.

The Blue Devils lost their first eight games, including their first four Section 2-6A contests, before winning a WPIAL championship and ending up as the PIAA Class 6A runner-up.

Now Central Catholic hopes it can repeat that remarkable feat.

The Vikings won their first section game Tuesday and snapped a five-game losing streak with an impressive win at Mt. Lebanon, 8-4.

“We lost five in a row and four in a row in section, but the heads were never down,” Central Catholic coach John Rende said. “We lost late twice against Hempfield and lost in extra innings (Monday), but it’s never been let’s just pout and give in. It was always let’s punch back and get back in this thing.”

Central Catholic was swept by Hempfield, losing the final two games 6-4 and 5-3.

Then on Monday, after scoring two runs to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, two-time defending WPIAL champion Mt. Lebanon produced four runs in the eighth to win, 7-3.

“We’ve been missing key hits with runners in scoring position, but (Tuesday), we didn’t,” Rende said. “We still left a few out there, but overall, it’s been a lot better. We’ve been getting guys on base, but it’s been base to base and not finishing the job with runners in scoring position.”

That was not an issue against five Mt. Lebanon pitchers.

Vikings senior catcher Gavin Kelly had an RBI double in the top of the first inning.

Following a Blue Devils run in the bottom of the first, Central Catholic sophomore Landon Greene delivered a two-run single followed by a run-scoring ground rule double by Kelly to make it 4-1.

With the Vikings leading 4-3 in the third inning, senior Luke McCartney crushed a two-run homer over the right field fence to double the lead.

“We talk about it all the time: play our game and play for each other,” Rende said. “That’s what we did. Guys were stepping up and filling any role they had to. We need to pitch, play D and get that timely hitting, especially in 6A where it’s a dogfight every day.”

Central Catholic starting pitcher Carson Patterson allowed one earned run in two innings and left with his team leading by one run.

Vikings junior pitcher Christian Cordeiro came in and pitched 3 ⅔ innings, allowing one earned run on four hits.

“He pitched an inning (Monday), coming in in a tough spot and limiting the damage,” Rende said. “I talked to him and asked if he could go for us and he said absolutely. He came in and was lights out. He threw strikes and gave us a chance.”

Cordeiro picked up the win with senior Ryan DeLuca coming into the game for the final four outs.

Central Catholic pounded out 13 hits with junior Yaniel Heredia leading the way with three while Greene, Kelly, McCartney and freshman Chase Gelpi had two hits each as the Vikings improved to 1-4 in the section and 4-5 overall.

Mt. Lebanon seniors Danny Clevinger and Weston Airey had two hits each as the Blue Devils fell to 3-2 in the section and 6-3 overall.

“We just didn’t play well against a good team,” Mt. Lebanon coach Patt McCloskey said. “Fortunately, we still have an opportunity to play again Thursday and try to win the series.”

The rubber game of the three-game series will be Thursday when the Vikings host the Blue Devils at the No Offseason complex in Russellton.

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