Riverside makes history as undefeated PIAA baseball champion

Thursday, June 15, 2023 | 4:50 PM

UNIVERSITY PARK — In his 55 years as baseball coach at Riverside, Dan Oliastro has seen quite a bit, but he’d never seen this.

Nobody else in the WPIAL had either.

Riverside finished off an undefeated season with a state championship win over Camp Hill, 4-0, Thursday in the PIAA Class 3A final at Penn State. That meant the Panthers became the first WPIAL baseball team to win a state title with a perfect record, adding a remarkable new accomplishment to Oliastro’s storied career.

“Think how long he’s been coaching and the things he’s seen,” said winning pitcher Christian Lucarelli said. “For (us to accomplish) something he’s never seen before is kind of crazy.”

Riverside finished 25-0.

“It’s so amazing,” said Oliastro, 79. “There were four or five games in which we easily could have folded and lost.”

They never did.

The state title was the fifth for Riverside, which now stands as the most by any school statewide in PIAA history. This title joins those won in 2005, ’06, ’11 and ’12 — all under Oliastro.

“Undefeated was not on our goal list. It just kind of came with it,” said senior Mitch Garvin, whose two-run double broke the game open in the sixth inning.

The WPIAL champions scored one run in the fourth inning and three in the sixth.

That was enough for Lucarelli, who allowed only two hits and came one out short of pitching a complete game. Five walks kept him from going the distance. The PIAA’s 105-pitch limit forced him from the mound at Medlar Field with two outs in the seventh.

District 3 champion Camp Hill (21-4) never cracked him.

Lucarelli stranded five batters with four in scoring position. The sophomore right-hander escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning with a popup and groundout, and later stranded a runner at third with consecutive strikeouts to end the fourth.

“I love those positions,” he said. “I love competing. If you get on, I’m not letting you in. That’s my mindset the entire time. I definitely have more grit, more focus.”

Lucarelli dueled with Camp Hill senior Luke Parise, who struck out 10 in a four-hit complete game.

The St. Joseph’s recruit retired the first 10 batters in order and was perfect into the fourth inning before Riverside broke through. The Panthers manufactured a run with a walk, a groundout, a stolen base and a hit.

They had their first baserunner when Ashton Schlosser drew a one-out walk. The next batter, Bo Fornataro, reached on a fielder’s choice, with Schlosser thrown out at second.

Fornataro later stole second and scored on a two-out single to left field by sophomore Hunter Garvin to lead 1-0.

Riverside added three runs in the sixth, highlighted by a two-run double from Mitch Garvin. Evan Burry, Schlosser and Hunter Garvin all reached base and scored in the sixth.

The Panthers have shown a knack for big innings late.

“I think it’s a little bit of a mental thing,” first baseman Mitch Garvin said. “We knew that pitcher was good. Once we see him a couple of times, we start hitting late in the game.”

Hunter Garvin went 2 for 3 with one run and two RBIs. Garvin also earned the final out in relief, forcing a game-ending grounder with two runners on base.

“It’s just unreal,” Lucarelli said. “I don’t think anyone deserves it more than we do. We worked unbelievably hard, and look forward to doing it next year too.”

Why not? The Panthers already won back-to-back state titles twice before. After Tuesday’s game, Oliastro said he and Camp Hill’s coach agreed with a laugh to meet here again next season.

“I said, yes,” Oliastro said. “You can write it on your calendar.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.


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