New Castle’s Rocco Bernadina mows down Montour in WPIAL Class 4A championship

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021 | 10:19 PM


New Castle owns the most boys basketball titles in WPIAL history, and the football team ranks third on the league’s all-time championships list.

But the Red Hurricanes never had won a baseball title, until now. Senior Rocco Bernadina pitched a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts Wednesday night and led seventh-seeded New Castle to its first WPIAL title with a 5-0 victory over No. 1 Montour in the Class 4A final at Wild Things Park in Washington.

The Kent State recruit retired the first 13 batters in order and carried a no-hitter into the fifth. He walked only one.

“I told my guys, ‘Literally, you’ve just got to get me one run,’” Bernadina said. “We’re winning this game.”

New Castle’s championship run included wins over the first, second and third seeds.

“I don’t want to get emotional. This is great,” said New Castle coach Billy Cook, who’s in his third year. “This is everything. Our school, our community has been behind us all the way. It’s just an amazing feeling.

“We actually brought baseball back,” Cook added. “Baseball’s back.”

With one out in the fifth, Montour’s Mason Sike broke up Bernadina’s no-hit bid with a single to left. But New Castle, making its first WPIAL finals appearance, already had a four-run lead by then.

Bernadina wasn’t fazed.

“In the dugout, guys were starting to get a little bit upset about it, and I said, ‘We’re here to win this game, not worry about how we won it,’” Bernadina said. “I could have thrown a seven-hitter. I don’t care. We won the WPIAL championship.”

New Castle (14-9) used five hits and four Montour errors to score two runs in the first inning and one run apiece in the third, fifth and sixth. That was plenty for Bernadina, a hard-throwing right-hander with 86 strikeouts in 56 innings this season.

The miscues in the field were uncharacteristic for Montour, which maybe wasn’t at its best.

“Defensively, certainly not,” Montour coach Bob Janeda said. “But I’m not sure how much it would have mattered the way Bernadina threw. He threw a great ballgame.”

All nine of Montour’s outs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings were on Bernadina strikeouts.

“Rocco is a man amongst kids,” Cook said. “To come out here in the championship game and throw a one-hitter against a tremendous team … to come out here and put on a performance like that, speaks volumes.”

Montour (15-6) was seeking its first WPIAL title in 50 years. The Spartans last won the WPIAL title in 1972, the team’s most-recent finals appearance.

As section foes, Montour defeated New Castle twice in the regular season this spring. The Spartans won 3-0 on April 13 and 6-4 on April 23.

Both teams are qualified for the state playoffs.

“It’s three seasons,” Janeda said. “First season, we win the section, it’s great. Second season, we’re runner-up in the WPIAL, not so great. Third season is the states. Ideally, a state title might taste better than a WPIAL anyway, but we’ve got some work to do. That’s for sure.”

Montour starter Dylan Mathiesen allowed three runs on five hits in four innings. He struck out three. Gannon Kadlecik relieved him in the fifth and allowed two runs while striking out seven.

New Castle sophomore Dominik Fornataro singled, doubled and scored three times. Donny Cade and Dante Micaletti also scored for the Red Hurricanes.

The first inning started with consecutive singles by Micaletti, Fornataro and Anthony Miller to load the bases. Bernadina drove in one run with a grounder that bounced high off the pitching mound, and Cade followed with an RBI single to lead 2-0.

In the third, Fornataro doubled, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout by Miller.

Fornataro walked in the fifth and scored again without any New Castle hits. He reached third on a two-base throwing error and scored on a wild pitch.

In the sixth, Cade drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on George Joseph’s squeeze bunt to lead 5-0.

“Freshman year, we got a run at the playoffs. Sophomore year, same thing. Every year we got closer and closer,” Bernadina said. “It was almost an obligation to win this game.”

Watch the archived video stream broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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