No. 12 Shenango credits strength of its section after upset win over No. 5 Valley

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024 | 12:20 AM


Shenango was the underdog on paper as a fourth-place finisher from one section facing the champion of another.

But the Wildcats didn’t play like underdogs. Led by junior Joe Campoli, who had an RBI double and scored twice, No. 12 seed Shenango upset No. 5 Valley, 5-3, Tuesday night in the first round of the WPIAL 3A playoffs at North Allegheny.

Campoli also pitched two scoreless innings in relief.

“You know, our section is pretty good,” Shenango coach Mike Othites said. “We had No. 1 and No. 2.”

The WPIAL baseball committee apparently agreed with Othites’ view, since the it awarded the bracket’s top seed to Section 1 champion Riverside and the second seed to runner-up Mohawk. No. 11 seed Neshannock, the section’s third-place team, also pulled a first-round upset Monday by defeating No. 6 Waynesburg, 6-1.

“It’s a good section and it prepares us for games like this,” Othites said. “You’re used to seeing Riverside, who has four guys who throw 90 (mph).”

Shenango senior Jimmy Roe earned the win by holding Valley to three runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out three. Campoli, who relieved Roe in the sixth with two runners on, stranded both on base before pitching a perfect seventh for the save.

Shenango (11-9) advances to face No. 4 South Allegheny (16-4) in a quarterfinal Monday at a site and time to be announced. Regardless of the double-digit seed, the Wildcats said they feel like contenders in this tournament.

“We always go into every game thinking that,” Othites said. “Coming from where we’ve come from and seeing the teams we’ve seen, we think we can beat anybody, just from the section that we’re in.”

The loss ended the season for Valley (16-5), which was the Section 3 champion. The Vikings entered the playoffs with a double-digit winning streak that started a month ago.

“Winning 12 games in a row is hard to do,” Valley coach Jim Basilone said. “It just wasn’t our day today. For some reason, the ball didn’t fall our way. It happens to good teams.”

Valley scored all of its runs on home runs by sophomore Niko Heakins, who twice cleared the right-field fence. Valley took a 2-0 lead on a two-run blast by Heakins in the third inning before Shenango answered with two runs the fourth and three runs in the fifth.

In the fourth, after Campoli walked and Trey Ross singled, Christian Anterock and D.J. Graham followed with RBI singles for a 2-2 tie.

In the fifth, Shenango took the lead by turning three hits, two walks and two errors into three runs. Ben Santangelo hit a leadoff single, advanced on a throwing error and scored on Jason Malley’s RBI single. Campoli followed with an RBI double scoring Malley, and Campoli later scored on a wild pitch for a 5-2 lead.

“One thing that we’ve done all year is battle back,” Othites said.

Valley starter Wesley Schrock allowed eight hits, walked three and struck out four in a complete game.

Basilone wondered if playing under the lights might’ve affected Valley’s hitters. He said they practiced under the lights but hadn’t played a night game all season.

“The ball is always faster at night,” Basilone said. “At least it seems faster. It’s an optical illusion.”

Heakins hit his second homer in the fifth inning, a solo shot that cut Shenango’s lead to 5-3. The Vikings had other chances to spark a big inning but left six runners on base.

“We could never really get anything going,” Basilone said. “That’s tough to swallow.”

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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