Penn-Trafford baseball warms up in time to win PIAA opener

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Monday, June 3, 2024 | 8:57 PM


Maybe Penn-Trafford expected a slow start in the PIAA baseball playoffs.

A shaky defense that allowed two unearned runs gave that impression early in Monday’s game.

But that didn’t keep the WPIAL champion Warriors from winning their state tournament opener.

You can keep your WPIAL hangovers. There is only one Westmoreland County team left in the state playoffs, and the Warriors will keep stacking wins any way they come.

Ian Temple’s RBI single to left in the bottom of the fifth put the Warriors in front of Lower Dauphin, 3-2, and that score held up in a Class 5A victory at Plum.

Penn-Trafford (21-3) advances to play Hollidaysburg (15-5) in Thursday’s quarterfinals at a time and site to be announced.

“I’m glad it all worked out our way,” Warriors coach Lou Cortazzo said. “That is a good team we played. There were some uncharacteristic (plays) … Maybe it was the big stage. I said we need to breathe and relax and play our game. We had some sloppy practices coming into today. We had to clean things up.”

A couple of early defensive misfires were overshadowed by some gems later, including one to seal the Warriors’ second-ever state playoffs victory.

Lower Dauphin, the fifth-place team from District 3, was ahead 2-1 in the top of the third when center fielder Jason Sabol scooped up a single by Isaac Ulrich and fired to third to get the third out.

With two outs in the top of the seventh, first baseman Chuck Fontana, who tweaked his lower back on a hard swing in the fifth, ran down a pop up in foul territory and made a sliding catch before bumping into the fence for the final out of the game.

“We’re always in games,” Fontana said. “You can never count us out because of our heart. We’re the Cardiac Warriors.”

Penn-Trafford used three pitchers against a hard-hitting Falcons order, which produced eight hits, including a near triple that came with some controversy in the seventh.

With one out, Virginia commit Hunter Strohm smacked a deep drive to the fence in center and attempted to turn a double into a triple. But Sabol fired the ball in to Brody Hoffman, who threw to Tyler Freas at third. Freas applied the tag to Strohm, who slid slightly wide and came off the bag for an emotional second out.

“This was a 100 percent team win,” Temple said. “Everyone made a play. We had a couple of errors, but we got the timely hits.”

Zach Feldman started on the mound for Penn-Trafford before Dom Delio took over in the fifth and worked 1 2/3 innings before turning it over to Hunter Brown, who came on with two outs in the sixth.

Brown, who only needed one pitch to get out of the inning, closed it out for his seventh save.

Fontana had an RBI on a groundout for the game’s first run in the first.

The back-to-back errors allowed the Falcons to tie it in the second.

Max Hoopes made it 2-1 with an infield single in the third before three straight hits let the Warriors tie it in the fourth.

Hoffman and Temple singled, then Carmen Metcalfe drove a single to center to make it 2-2.

With runners at second and third, Freas tried a squeeze bunt, but Braedeyn Danner alertly gathered it and threw home for the inning-ending putout.

Ethan Duff was the starting pitcher for Lower Dauphin. He was replaced by Trey Harper in the fourth.

Harper struck out four in three innings but took the loss.

Strohm finished 3 for 4.

Temple and Metcalfe each had two hits for Penn-Trafford.

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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