Mt. Lebanon alone in 1st place after wild, sloppy win over Hempfield

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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | 9:46 PM


It was a long day at the ball yard for Mt. Lebanon and Hempfield as the middle game of their Section 2-6A series flirted with dusk.

By the time the sun went down, Mt. Lebanon was in first place by itself.

“It was one of those last-man-standing kind of games,” Mt. Lebanon coach Patt McCloskey said. “It wasn’t over until the last at-bat.”

No. 3-ranked Mt. Lebanon ran its winning streak to six, outlasting No. 2 Hempfield, 9-4, to take a rocky contest that lasted 2 hours and 56 minutes and saw the teams combine for 25 hits, seven errors, four wild pitches, two balks and 27 left on base.

No surprise here: There were zero 1-2-3 innings Tuesday.

While both teams strung hits together, it was far from their best all-around performance and not what fans might expect to see from two teams tied for first. But the Blue Devils (12-3, 9-2) took the win and went home happy.

They maintained an energetic dugout and a positive demeanor throughout lengthy innings — a sure reflection of their lively coach — while repelling the Spartans (12-3, 8-3), who have dropped three of four after winning their first 11 games.

“When (Hempfield) was within two (at 6-4), I brought everybody in,” McCloskey said. “We had a lot of physical errors today, and there were some mental errors, too. I told them, nobody cares. All that matters is right now. It was about the moment.”

Mt. Lebanon had 15 hits and four errors, and Hempfield scattered 10 hits and made three miscues in the field.

Weston Airey led the Blue Devils by going 4 for 4 with four RBIs, a day after doubling as a relief pitcher and throwing three scoreless innings on 61 pitches.

David Shields had three doubles, Jake Tinnemeyer had three hits and two RBIs and Graham Keen, who hit a grand slam against Hempfield in Monday’s 8-6 win, had two hits for Mt. Lebanon.

Carson Shuglie went 3 for 3 with a walk, and Dylan Firmstone and Adam Hess had two hits each for Hempfield.

Mt. Lebanon took a 3-0 lead in the first off Chase Sikorski, with the help of two errors and a walk. Airey delivered a two-run single. Hempfield cut it to 3-2 in bottom of the inning, scoring on a wild pitch and a steal following Hess’s single.

In the third, the Blue Devil plated two more runs, thanks to Airey’s double and Brett Hamel’s single, for a 5-2 edge.

After Hempfield scored on a fielder’s choice, Keen ripped a run-scoring single to right center to make it 6-3 in the fourth. Tinnemeyer doubled, but the inning ended with a putout at home.

“Mt. Lebanon swung the bats well,” Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard said. “There are a couple plays I’d like to have back from that first inning. Credit to them. There were a lot of barrels, and they scored some runs.”

In the bottom of the fourth, Firmstone, who hit two deep drives close to the fence, had an RBI single with two outs to cut it to 6-4.

The Blue Devils had just swapped out pitchers: Nolan Smith, who also pitched in relief Monday, for Luca Borris. The latter denied the Spartans in the fifth with runners at second and third.

Mt. Lebanon had just left the bases loaded against reliever Hess — left fielder Keiren Lippman doubled up the Blue Devils with a catch and throw home for an inning-ending double play — and made two errors and issued a walk to give Hempfield hope.

But Borris struck out pinch-hitter Anthony DeMarco to quash the threat and keep it a 6-4 game.

“Luca, that was a big situation for him,” McCloskey said. “He was tremendous in that moment. I wanted to make sure he knew that.”

Mt. Lebanon left the bases jammed again in the sixth but not before adding two more runs on RBI singles by Tinnemeyer and Airey for an 8-4 advantage.

Chase Smith came on in relief in the sixth for the Blue Devils and got two outs with two runners on.

After Shields doubled in the seventh to chase Hess, reliever Gage Beeman hit Keen, and Tinnemeyer knocked in a run to make it 9-4.

Despite an error and wild pitch in their last at-bats, the Spartans went quietly.

“Both teams swung it well,” Buzzard said. “We couldn’t get that big hit. We had a couple of loud outs.”

Mt. Lebanon will go for the sweep Thursday at home when ace Shields, the sought-after MLB draft prospect, pitches against Parker Donsen.

“We’re going to give all we have in Game 3,” Buzzard said. “To see the best competition is a great test for us.”

Mt. Lebanon has used nine pitchers and has 10 saves in 15 games.

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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