Novacek’s career game helps Yough rally past Southmoreland, win share of Section 4-3A title

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Monday, May 2, 2022 | 10:28 PM


Despite pitching one of the best games of his baseball career, Allen Novacek did not earn a decision Monday afternoon.

But his team did, and it was as exciting as it was important.

“That’s all that matters,” the Yough senior said.

Junior Gavin Roebuck delivered a two-run, walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning, and Yough clipped visiting Southmoreland, 3-2, to claim at least a share of the Section 4-3A title.

Novacek struck out a career-high 13 hitters before leaving the game in the top of the sixth when he reached 100 pitches for Yough (7-5, 6-2), winners of five of its last six.

He worked fast, struck out the side twice and limited the Scotties (6-5, 5-4) to seven hits while walking two.

Junior James Shoman came on to earn the win in relief.

“My mindset going into every game is that I am going to pitch well,” said Novacek, whose record remained at 3-0. “I felt like I elevated my fastball well today. This game doesn’t mean anything, though, if we lose. This is the high of my high school career.”

Roebuck, who was ill most of the day and almost didn’t play in the matchup of playoff qualifiers, had three RBIs.

With one out in the seventh, he erased a 2-1 deficit when he lined a sharp single between short and third to bring home senior Christian Park, who singled with one out, and senior Taylor Odelli, who doubled down the left-field line.

“(Southmoreland pitcher Ty Keffer) seemed like he was losing his curve a little bit as the game went on,” Roebuck said. “So I sat on a fastball. We were patient all the way.”

Yough’s last section title came in 2019. This is the third under coach Craig Spisak.

“Al has pitched well for us all year, but this was by far his best outing,” Spisak said. “He got stronger as the game went on. We hit a lot of balls in the air. Their center fielder and first baseman had a ton of pop-ups. I talked to the kids about adjusting and trying to hit the ball on the ground (in the seventh). To their credit, they did that, and it worked out.”

Instead of Southmoreland, which had already clinched its first playoff berth since 2008, making a late run at section title, the Scotties were denied — for now — despite a complete-game effort from Keffer.

The teams play again today at Southmoreland. The Scotties need to win and have Yough lose to Charleroi in the section finale to share the section title.

“We knew this could be a one-run game, a pitchers’ duel,” Southmoreland coach Al Govern said. “We have been in some close games this year. Ty pitched a heck of a game. (Novacek) hides his delivery well. It’s tough to fall short, but our program has come a long way.”

The Scotties had held a 2-1 lead since the second inning. Sophomore David Billheimer knocked in a run with an infield single, and an error let another to come home in the top of the second.

Billheimer went 2 for 3.

Senior Kaiden Keefer doubled to deep right center, and senior Noah Phillips had an infield single to set the table.

In the home half of the frame, Yough made it 2-1.

Park walked, stole second, and scored on an infield hit by Roebuck.

Two exceptional defensive plays also stood out.

With Southmoreland up with a man at third and one out in the third, Cougars junior catcher Jack Sampson recovered a passed ball and made a lunging tag to put out Keffer, who opened the inning with a single.

Then, in the bottom of the third, Novacek singled and stole second. But Sampson grounded to Scotties shortstop Anthony Govern, who faked the throw to first and fired home to get a hurdling Novacek and end the inning.

“It’s satisfying to the see the kids live up to their potential,” Spisak said. “I am happy for them.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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