Penn-Trafford out to capture elusive WPIAL baseball title as Bethel Park stands in the way

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Monday, May 27, 2024 | 4:12 PM


When Lou Cortazzo inherited the Penn-Trafford baseball team in 2023, he walked into a program that was ready to become dominant.

All the Warriors have done is learn how to win big games.

In Cortazzo’s first season, the Warriors reached the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals and won their first PIAA playoff game.

This season, the Warriors have taken it a step further by advancing to the 5A championship game for the second time since 2019.

“That was our goal, to take it to the next level,” Cortazzo said. “We’ve reached the championship game, and we want to progress through the PIAA playoffs and, hopefully, bring home a crown.”

But first, the Warriors (18-3) have their eyes on the championship game against Bethel Park at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Wild Things Park in Washington.

The Black Hawks (15-6-1) defeated Penn-Trafford, 8-5, in the 2023 semifinals. Bethel Park, however, lost to Shaler 10-1, in the title game. Both teams opened the PIAA playoffs with wins but lost close games in the quarterfinals.

Penn-Trafford defeated Bethel Park in the Fall League playoffs, 5-2 in the quarterfinals, and went on to win the title.

Cortazzo said that win means nothing now.

“Both teams had multiple-sport athletes who missed that game,” Cortazzo said. “Winning the title was nice because it gave us confidence, and we got to see our future pitchers. We worked hard in the fall.”

Those pitchers included Brandon Roher, Zach Feldman, Hunter Brown and Dom Delio. Roher was the winning pitcher against Fox Chapel in the WPIAL quarterfinals, and Feldman started and got the win in the semifinals against Franklin Regional.

“The fall league helped us because we got to work in younger players that ended up helping us,” Roher said. “It gave us confidence because we could trust them in key situations. Bethel Park is a good team.”

Cortazzo said he doesn’t know a lot about Bethel Park yet. He said the Black Hawks have a strong pitching staff.

Roher said the spring trip to Myrtle Beach brought the team together.

“We jelled as a team,” he said. “We’re a family, brothers backing brothers. We have more of a family atmosphere.”

Cortazzo added that many of the players have been playing together since they were 7 and 8 years old.

Penn-Trafford reached the finals by defeating two section rivals: Fox Chapel (2-0) and Franklin Regional (10-3).

Ethan Septak homered against Fox Chapel and had a two-run single against Franklin Regional.

Jason Sabol hit a three-run homer, and Braydon Stone had a two-run triple and finished with three RBIs against Franklin Regional.

Bethel Park rolled over section rival Trinity, 11-1, in the quarterfinals and edged No. 1 West Allegheny, 7-6, in the semifinals. The Black Hawks rallied from a 3-0 deficit against West Allegheny.

Mike Bruckner and Ryan Walsh hit back-to-back two-run doubles to give the Black Hawks a 4-3 lead, and Joe Revis singled home Walsh in the third inning. Bruckner made it 6-3 on a single in the fourth inning, and Noah Lejeune had the winning sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.

Dylan Paul held West Allegheny scoreless over the final two innings to earn the save.

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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