North Allegheny shows Hart in pivotal win over Seneca Valley

Thursday, April 27, 2023 | 9:45 PM

In a four-team jam-up at the top of Section 1-6A baseball, North Allegheny enters the final week of section play in first place after the Tiger proved Thursday they have a lot of Hart.

Senior Andrew Hart was dominant with his arm and his bat in leading NA past Seneca Valley, 6-2, in the rubber game of their three-game section series.

The win puts North Allegheny (7-2, 11-3) alone in first place, one game ahead of Butler and Pine-Richland and two games in front of Seneca Valley (5-4, 12-4).

“This was the rubber-match game. Gotta be prepared. Gotta be ready to go,” North Allegheny coach Andrew Heck said. “We weren’t really sure what to expect coming into a game like this, but we did a really good job.”

Hart got his successful game going with an infield single off the leg of Seneca Valley starting pitcher junior Zyler Freeman. Hart was sacrificed to second by senior Andrew Dougherty, went to third on a balk and scored on a wild pitch.

“He did a great job and did everything we needed of him,” Heck said. “I thought being able to scratch home a run in the first inning was big for us.”

NA added to its lead with two unearned runs in the second inning.

Senior Anthony Varlotta was hit by a pitch and would have been doubled off first base on a line drive to left field that junior Luke Anderton snagged with a sliding catch. His throw to first base was in time but got past the Raiders first baseman. He later scored on an RBI single by Hart. Two batters later, senior Spencer Barnett singled home junior Owen Schall to make it 3-0 Tigers.

North Allegheny made it 5-0 in the fourth inning when Barnett singled home Schall for the second time, then Hart scored on a Raiders error on a steal attempt by Barnett. For the game, Seneca Valley committed four errors.

Meanwhile, Hart was on cruise control on the mound, allowing only four baserunners in the first five innings.

“He didn’t pitch last week, and there is no specific reason for that,” Heck said. “We as a coaching staff felt that Hart was the answer (Thursday). He has kind of a bulldog mentality. He’s a senior and he’s a leader for us. We felt very comfortable handing him the ball. Sometimes when you don’t get the ball handed to you, you get a little bit hungry.”

Against Seneca Valley senior reliever Paul Rebovich, Hart scored his third run in the sixth inning on a run-scoring single by Dougherty.

On Monday, North Allegheny shut out Seneca Valley, 7-0. On Tuesday, the Raiders turned the table and blanked the Tigers, 9-0.

A third straight shutout was avoided when Seneca Valley plated two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on a two-run double by junior pinch hitter Owen Yarussi off NA reliever Nicholas Varlotta, a sophomore.

The Tigers hammered out nine hits, with six of them coming off the bats of Gardner-Webb recruit Hart and West Virginia commit Barnett.

“Those two, when everything is going well for them, you can tell they have good confidence at the plate,” Heck said. “Even when you fool them, they give themselves an opportunity to put the ball in play in areas in which they can get base hits.”

Hart allowed only three hits over 5⅔ innings, walking two and striking out nine, six of which were called third strikes.

“Any time that you are getting guys looking, you’ve got some good things going for you,” Heck said. “He was getting ahead in the count. He had a lot of focus and everything was in the zone. Biggest thing for him was he had his off-speed stuff for strikes.”

North Allegheny will battle Pine-Richland in the final week while Seneca Valley goes up against Butler.

If the Tigers win the series, they will win at least a share of the section crown. If they sweep, they will be outright section champs and likely the No. 1 seed in the 6A playoffs.

“It’s no secret, that’s probably out big rival within our section,” Heck said. “They show up with a different intensity and with a different focus when it’s North Allegheny and Pine-Richland. Both teams are going to be ready to play.”

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