New Castle earns school’s 1st state baseball title

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Friday, June 18, 2021 | 5:03 PM


UNIVERSITY PARK — With little more than a quick Internet search, a few conversations with a couple of coaches and the eye test of watching Wyoming Area go through infield-outfield drills prior to the start of the game, New Castle didn’t know much about its PIAA Class 4A championship game opponent Friday afternoon.

But New Castle starter Rocco Bernadina apparently had seen enough.

Once Bernadina began to work off his fastball and started getting a feel for his secondary pitches, the Kent State bound right-hander found his groove.

He also delivered a huge double down the left field line that helped propel New Castle to a 7-3 victory at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The win gave New Castle the first state title in program history. Wyoming Area was also playing in its first state championship game.

“We didn’t have much of an idea of a way to attack them,” Bernadina said. “Just some simple stats. We knew they were a .270-hitting team with a couple of key hitters and not a lot of power. We never saw any of those guys. Just analyzing what we saw during warmups and when they came to the plate.”

JJ Hood started for the Warriors, coming in on three days’ rest after throwing 103 pitches in the semifinal game on Monday. Hood lasted 5⅓ innings, struck out seven and walked one. He faced 27 batters and threw 101 pitches.

“I thought JJ was dominant once again,” Wyoming Area coach Rob Lemoncelli said. “A bloop single here and there, they are going to get that. I don’t think they smashed him around the ballpark.”

Thanks to a pair of New Castle errors in the third, Wyoming Area was able to push across three runs to give Hood a lead.

“Our mentality is to take the lead and win each inning,” New Castle coach Bill Cook said. “I told them early in the game we have scored more than three runs in a game before. Our goal was to chip away. We did, and then later in the game, the bats got really hot.”

New Castle scored single runs in the third and fourth innings on squeeze plays, the first dropped down by Dante Micalietti and the second by Donny Cade.

“We do it,” Cook said of the squeeze. “At that point, my mentality is if we bring one in, it’s 3-1. We bring in another, it’s 3-2. Now we can go play baseball, play a regular game. Next time we get someone on third, now they are going to think about it.”

Bernadina took matters into his own hands at the plate, delivering a two-run double just inside the bag at third that scooted down the left field line. That gave New Castle a lead it did not surrender.

“(Bernadina) spoiled a really good pitch with two strikes,” Lemoncelli said. “He stuck his bat out and pulled it down the line.”

Two Wyoming Area errors contributed to New Castle’s first run of the day. Another in the sixth, when the Hurricanes scored three times to put the game away, helped keep the inning rolling.

“We are usually a pretty sound defensive team,” Lemoncelli said. “We had some blunders early. When they happen early, you don’t think they are going to come back and haunt you. That is when you give a little momentum to the other side. You just tip your cap to New Castle. They had a stud on the mound, and they are a pretty good hitting team.”

Bernadina got all but the final two outs of the game after being lifted following his 108th pitch. Anthony Miller came on to strike out the final two hitters to close out the victory.

“Once we went through the order once, we found out what was right and what was wrong,” Bernadina said. “The best thing for us, we understood no matter what happened, we just stayed positive and kept grinding. We knew we would have a chance to come out on top.”

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