Penn-Trafford gets past Bethel Park in Class 5A final to capture 1st WPIAL baseball title

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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | 12:33 AM


Penn-Trafford used a four-run fourth-inning rally to claim its first WPIAL baseball title Tuesday, defeating Bethel Park, 4-3, in the Class 5A championship game at Wild Things Park.

The Warriors used clutch hitting and solid defense and left Bethel Park looking for answers.

The Black Hawks (15-7) had numerous opportunities during the game but failed to get the clutch hit and ended up stranding 11 runners. Their pitchers — Santino Diulus and Ryan Walsh — allowed only five hits while striking out 15 Warriors batters.

“This kind of stinks to end this way,” Bethel Park coach Pat Zehnder said. “We outhit them, but they ended up taking advantage of their opportunities better than we did.”

The game started two hours late because of the length of the Class 3A game, a 4-3 Avonworth win over Riverside in 14 innings.

And things didn’t start well for the Warriors as Diulus struck out the side to begin the game.

Penn-Trafford starting pitcher Brandon Roher worked out of trouble in the first two innings before Bethel Park grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third.

Walsh lined a two-run double to center field, scoring Ryan Petras, who singled, and Michael Bruckner, who was hit by a pitch. It was Walsh’s second double of the game.

“Our pitchers and defense kept us in the game,” Penn-Trafford coach Lou Cortazzo said. “We battled and battled. We’re never out of a game.”

The Warriors (19-3) responded in the fourth inning to take a 4-2 lead.

Ian Temple tripled home pinch-runner Bret Worthington and Brody Hoffman, both of whom walked, to tie the score, and courtesy runner David Newsom scored on a squeeze bunt single by Carmen Metcalfe to make it 3-2.

“I was just looking for something to drive,” Temple said of his hit. “They had two excellent pitchers. I was looking to drive the outside pitch the other way.

“This win is huge, but we’re not done yet. We have the state tournament to play.”

Cortazzo pulled out the squeeze bunt from the playbooks of former Penn-Trafford coaches Orin Bache and Ron Evans.

Stone then doubled to left to score Metcalfe from first base to make it 4-2.

“We went old school,” Cortazzo said about the squeeze. “Coach Bache taught me that when I played.”

Bethel Park got a run back in the bottom of the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly by Ethan Stanhoff that scored courtesy runner Aaron Hofbauer.

The Warriors threatened in the second inning. Ethan Septak reached on a one-out walk and advanced to second on a balk.

With two outs, catcher Ian Temple hit a sharp single to left that moved Septak to third. On the throw home, Temple advanced to second. Diulus then struck out Carmen Metcalfe to end the threat.

The Black Hawks got a lead-off bloop double from Walsh and eventually loaded the bases with one out in the second inning, but Roher fanned Jack Bruckner and got Tierney to pop out.

In the third, the Warriors got a one-out single by Brayden Stone and stranded him at first.

In the sixth inning, the Black Hawks again threatened to tie the score. With runners on the corners, relief pitcher Dom Delio speared Michael Bruckner’s one-hopper headed toward center field to end threat.

“If Dom doesn’t make that play, it’s a tie score. Who knows what happens?” Cortazzo said. “But he made the play. He was able to get the ball to Hunter (Brown) in the seventh inning.”

Brown, Penn-Trafford’s closer, allowed a two-out single but struck out Nicholas Rillo to end the game.

Bethel Park lost 10-1 to Shaler in the 2023 Class 5A finals. The Black Hawks won WPIAL titles in 1985 and 1987 and have been in the finals three of the last four years.

Penn-Trafford lost Shaler in the 5A finals in 2019.

Bethel Park defeated Penn-Trafford, 8-5, in the 2023 semifinals, but the Warriors qualified for the PIAA playoffs by defeating Plum in the third-place game.

Now the Warriors want to go further than they did last year.

Penn-Trafford will face either the District 3 fifth-place team, either Palmyra or Lower Dauphin, on Monday. Bethel Park will face the winner of the District 3 championship game, either Governor Mifflin or Mechanicsburg.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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