Mt. Lebanon capitalizes on 4-error inning by Manheim Township in PIAA playoff win

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Monday, June 5, 2023 | 8:59 PM


Eight miles was how far Mt. Lebanon traveled to reach Boyce Mayview Park, the site of Monday’s state playoff game.

That’s the perk for winning a WPIAL title.

In comparison, Mt. Lebanon’s opponent rode a bus more than four hours from Lancaster County, and that long journey surely played a part in Manheim Township’s disastrous start. Four errors, two walks, a hit batter and a passed ball let Mt. Lebanon score four times in the first inning without a hit.

Ultimately, that was all Mt. Lebanon needed for a 4-1 win in the first round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs.

“We’re lucky we played 10 minutes away,” Mt. Lebanon coach Patt McCloskey said. “It was a very nice advantage. I’m not going to lie. It was a huge advantage.”

With the relaxed travel schedule, the Blue Devils took batting practice at home at 11 a.m. before traveling to the ballpark in neighboring Upper St. Clair for a 2 p.m. start.

McCloskey actually worried they’d arrive too early.

“They didn’t have school today and only a few kids had finals, so I said, ‘Let’s get down there and let’s get moving around,’” McCloskey said. “The kids were goofy. It was like teaching on a Friday, eighth period. They came here and played hacky sack in the outfield. And then when it was go time, they were focused.”

Mt. Lebanon starter Matt Delvaux scattered seven hits, walked none, hit two batters and struck out three in a complete-game victory. The start was his first since a WPIAL semifinal win 13 days earlier, but the senior right-hander was sharp.

“Pitching with the lead is the best feeling,” said Delvaux, who retired seven of the first eight batters, including one he picked off first base. “There’s no stress at all. You’ve got all of the confidence.”

Delvaux allowed only one extra-base hit, and his Mt. Lebanon teammates played error-free defense behind him.

“When a team doesn’t make any errors and you give them runs, you’re going to have some trouble,” Manheim Township coach Matt Kirchoff said.

Mt. Lebanon (14-10) will face District 1 runner-up Spring-Ford (22-3) in a state quarterfinal Thursday at a site and time to be announced.

A year ago, Mt. Lebanon won a WPIAL title and lost in the first round of the state tournament. This time, McCloskey said, he saw a more determined Blue Devils roster.

“It’s a group that has definitely embraced the goal of a state championship,” McCloskey said. “Of all the times we’ve gone to the state playoffs … I’d say this is the most focused we’ve been.”

Manheim Township (14-11) was the third-place team from District 3. Kirchoff said the PIAA should rethink its current system that awards first-round home games to teams seeded higher on the bracket, but he wouldn’t blame the long trip for his team’s first-inning mistakes.

“We don’t worry about the travel,” he said. “We just want the opportunity to play, and that’s what we had today.”

Manheim Township right-hander Gavin Glass, a senior committed to Army, pitched a two-hitter with six strikeouts in the loss. Glass needed 35 pitches to earn the first three outs but bounced back with 11-, five-, 10-, 14 and nine-pitch innings.

But the Blue Streaks had trouble explaining their first-inning woes.

“Maybe a little nerves, maybe just trying to do a little too much,” Kirchoff said. “We’ve got a mix of young guys and some older guys. Our pitcher gave up two hits. When you throw a two-hitter, you probably deserve a little bit better luck.”

All four of Manheim Township’s errors occurred in the infield. Two were fielding miscues and two were offline throws.

Still, Mt. Lebanon played a part in causing those errors.

The Blue Devils tried to pressure their opponent by putting the ball in play and running the bases aggressively. Delvaux, Tyler Smith, Nolan Smith, Brock Stacy and Nate Girod all reached base in the first inning as Mt. Lebanon sent nine batters to the plate.

In that inning, the Blue Devils sure looked at home.

“We definitely had a huge advantage,” Delvaux said. “We’re 20 minutes away. They’re four hours, or whatever they are. That’s crazy.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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