No. 9 hitter sparks 7th inning rally, leads Chartiers Valley past Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, April 11, 2023 | 10:35 PM

The last shall be first.

Senior Tyler Zallenick, the designated hitter batting in the No. 9 spot in the order, delivered a two-out RBI single in the top of the seventh inning to break a scoreless tie and spark a big inning in a big win for Chartiers Valley over Thomas Jefferson on Tuesday, 5-1.

The win kept the Colts perfect in section play, tied for first place with defending Class 4A champion West Mifflin.

“We’ve been playing with the DH all year, trying to figure out who that is” Chartiers Valley coach Curt Cairns said. “No one has really stuck, no one has run away with the job yet, but Tyler took a step toward that. It was really nice to see.”

The top of the seventh started for Chartiers Valley with a leadoff walk to senior Justin Ferrari against the second pitcher of the day for Thomas Jefferson, Cody Karcher.

Ferrari was forced at second base on a ground ball to second base by senior Owen Taylor, who beat the throw to first base to avoid the double play.

Taylor stole second base, and one out later, Zallenick delivered the shutout-breaking single to center field.

The Colts didn’t stop there.

Senior Kyle Witte produced a run-scoring single, and then back-to-back defensive mishaps by the Jaguars allowed three more runs to score, giving the Colts a 5-0 lead.

“To add on was massive,” Cairns said. “We just wanted to tack on as many as we could.”

Thomas Jefferson finally cracked the scoreboard in the bottom of the seventh inning off Chartiers Valley reliever Brenden Cruz when the Jaguars’ No. 9 hitter, Ethan Steinmetz, singled home Brady McGough.

Senior Joe Vanzin was shaky early on, pitching out of two-on-and-one-out jams in the first and third innings, but then was lights out over his final three innings pitched, retiring the last 11 Jaguars he faced.

“He’s something. He can throw the heck out of that ball,” Cairns said of his winning pitcher. “He can come out and be dominant. When he gets hit up, it seems like it’s always the first inning. He’ll give up a hit here and there, then the next thing you know he has settled in and it’s all downhill from there.”

Vanzin pitched six scoreless innings, allowing only three hits with one walk and one hit batter while striking out 11.

Thomas Jefferson starter Tyler Lesko and Karcher matched goose eggs on the scoreboard with Vanzin through six.

Lesko pitched three scoreless innings, giving up only two hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Karcher yielded five runs in four innings of relief, but only two of those were earned runs with five hits, one walk and three strikeouts.

“Tough loss, especially with our pitchers throwing as well as they did,” Thomas Jefferson coach Tim Vickers said. “Cody and Ty held us in the game while we were waiting to capitalize on something. We missed a few big opportunities, especially early on.”

Chartiers Valley (3-0, 5-2) goes for the sweep of the section series Wednesday when it hosts Thomas Jefferson (2-1, 4-1).

“In the end, there’s no time to dwell on this,” Vickers said. “We have to get ready to compete (Wednesday).”

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