Mt. Lebanon digs out of hole, beats Seneca Valley in WPIAL Class 6A semifinals

Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | 10:33 PM

Last year, Mt. Lebanon fell into a deep crevice after losing its first eight games of the season but rebounded to win a second straight WPIAL title.

In the Class 5A semifinals Tuesday, Mt. Lebanon found itself in another big hole, trailing No. 5 seed Seneca Valley by five runs midway through the second inning. The top-seeded Blue Devils again showed their mettle by scoring four runs in the bottom of the second, tying the game in the third and adding six more runs in their final two at-bats to defeat the Raiders, 11-5, at Boyce Mayview Park.

“Every year in high school is different,” Mt. Lebanon coach Patt McCloskey said. “We were supposed to win in 2022, and that’s pressure. The next year, we stink and are 0-8 and now everybody is rooting for you. Now this year, we had the preseason accolades, but we won a lot of tough games and there’s more pressure. You have to be able to handle the pressure, and our kids did a nice job.”

Senior Nolan Smith started on the mound for Mt. Lebanon but struggled with his control, throwing nearly 30 pitches in a scoreless first inning.

In the second inning, Seneca Valley’s Kallen Durbin and Nick Parrotto singled and Owen Malak was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Aedan Fowler hit a ground ball to Mt. Lebanon third baseman Jake Tinnemeyer, who threw home for the force out at the plate. However, when catcher Maddox Yost tried to throw to first for a double play, his throw went down the right field line and two runs scored.

Ryan Rebholz followed with an RBI single, and after another hit batter and a wild pitch, Smith was lifted.

Luke Anderton greeted relief pitcher Graham Keen with a two-run single and the Raiders led, 5-0.

“Everybody kind of had their doubts,” Mt. Lebanon center fielder David Shields said. “When we did the pitching change, the outfielders came together and Weston Airey had no doubt in his mind that we were going to come back. We kind of fed off that.”

The Blue Devils answered quickly and decisively in the bottom of the second inning.

With two on and two out, Sawyer Klasnick singled home the first run, then Shields followed with a two-run triple. He then scored the fourth run of the inning on a Raiders error on a ground ball off the bat of Smith.

“We knew coming in that (Parrotto) had a good slider or curveball, so we practiced that a lot in our BP,” Shields said. “I got into a count when I felt one was coming. I sat on it and drove it the other way to get a couple of runs in.”

In the third inning, Parrotto struck out the first two batters on six pitches, then walked Maddox Yost and Nate Girod before hitting Matt Manning to load the bases. Klasnick’s third hit of the game tied the score, 5-5.

Mt. Lebanon showed off its defense in the top of the fourth inning.

Following a leadoff walk to Fowler, pinch hitter Quinn Carney hit a ball up the middle that second baseman Brett Hamel made a nifty play on, flipping to the shortstop Girod to get the lead runner at second base.

With Carney at first, Creed Erdos ripped a double down the left field line. Carney was waved home as left fielder Klasnick threw a strike to the cutoff man Girod, who turned and fired home to Yost, who made a lunging tag for the out at the plate to keep the game tied.

“Sawyer Klasnick makes a great throw with the season on the line,” McCloskey said. “Nate Girod is a winner. He’s a winner in basketball. He made a great play. With Yost, he could have moped after that ball got away from him in the second inning, but he stayed in the game and competed.”

Mt. Lebanon batted around and scored four unearned runs in the fifth inning.

Yost had a one-out double and his courtesy runner, Luca Borris, scored on another Raiders infield error. With two outs, Klasnick, Shields and Smith delivered run-scoring singles to put the Blue Devils up, 9-5.

The final two runs came in the sixth inning when Shields drove home his fourth and fifth runs with a single to score Girod and Frank Taucher.

The season ended for Seneca Valley at 12-9. Anderton led the way with two RBIs, and he reached base in three of his four at-bats.

Keen, a freshman sensation, was the winning pitcher for the Blue Devils. He threw 5⅔ innings, allowing no runs and three hits with six strikeouts.

“It took some real guts to go out there and do what he did,” Shields said. “To do what he did was really impressive, and he has a bright future ahead of him.”

Klasnick was 4 for 4, Shields had three hits and five RBIs, and Borris and Girod each scored three runs for Mt. Lebanon, which improves to 18-4 and runs its district playoff winning streak to eight in a row.

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