No. 6 Beaver ousts Belle Vernon in Class 4A 1st round

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019 | 7:18 PM


For the fifth consecutive season, Belle Vernon’s WPIAL playoff run ended quicker than anticipated.

The No. 11 Leopards were dealt a 5-0 defeat at the hands of No. 6 Beaver in a Class 4A first-round game Wednesday at Fox Chapel.

Belle Vernon (11-8) was hindered by three errors in a three-run first inning and struggled to get things going from there, falling in the opening round for the fifth straight year and sixth time in the last seven years.

“(The three-error first inning) set the tone for the whole game,” Belle Vernon coach Daryl Hixenbaugh said. “Our defense is what has carried us all year, and we’ve played really well. It’s just the way it goes.”

Beaver pitcher Alec Berg kept the Belle Vernon offense in check through six shutout innings, striking out four and walking a pair.

He allowed just one hit, a leadoff single by Cole Naylor in the second inning.

“Everybody was trying to do too much,” Hixenbaugh said.

Beaver (11-7) got the scoring started in the bottom of the first with two outs as Vinny Mastrangelo drew a walk.

James Finch, who came in to pinch run for the Beaver catcher, was able to advance to third as Naylor, the Leopards’ catcher, attempted a pick-off throw to first.

The ball sailed over the head of Andrew Sokol at first, giving the Bobcats their first chance with a runner in scoring position.

Berg then hit an RBI single to left field.

After Charlie Zorich came in to run for Berg, Zach Hansen drew a walk to put runners on first and second.

The pair took off on a double steal, but Naylor’s throw to third went over the head of third baseman Tyler Steadman, plating Zorich to make it a 2-0 game.

Hansen, who moved to third on Naylor’s throwing error, scored on another miscue by Steadman to push Beaver’s lead to three.

Belle Vernon starter Erik Pietrantoni lasted just 1 13 innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks.

Naylor relieved Pietrantoni and was effective, allowing two earned runs on five hits in 423 innings. He walked one and struck out three.

Naylor allowed his two runs on a two-run single by Michael Champ in the fifth.

Champ, Harrison Pontoli and Berg each had two hits for the Bobcats.

“Erik couldn’t get the ball down,” Hixenbaugh said. “Cole came in, got the ball down, changed speeds and was outstanding.

“That’s just high school kids, you never know what you’re going to get.”

Beaver advances to the WPIAL quarterfinals to face No. 14 Highlands (11-8) at a date, site and time to be determined.

“I feel sorry for the seniors here and some of these young guys, but we have been so up and down this season hitting-wise,” Hixenbaugh said. “We always have high expectations, and I wouldn’t coach any other way if we didn’t have high expectations.”

Check out an archived broadcast of this game on the TribLive High School Network.

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