Riverview baseball team reflects on WPIAL playoff run

Thursday, May 30, 2024 | 12:45 PM

Riverview baseball coach Bill Gras said the mood was somber — as would be expected — after his team’s 1-0 loss to No. 2 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinals May 20 at Seneca Valley.

The Raiders and Chargers played scoreless baseball into the seventh inning before OLSH scratched home the winning run on a walk-off single from pinch hitter Bruno Williams.

“Everyone was sad and hurt,” Gras said. “The emotion was there of being so close to moving on. We felt we were just as good as OLSH, and we could beat them. The goal was to get to the WPIAL championship.”

But Gras said his team, which finished third in Section 3 and ended 13-7 overall, competed like one of the top teams in Class 2A.

“If you are a baseball fan, that was the best game to watch,” Gras said. “That was pure baseball and great competition. The kids hung in there and battled to the end. They did the best they could for seven innings. I told them at the end of the game how proud I was of them. I would continue to go to battle in any game with those guys.”

The youthful Raiders, with just one senior — starting pitcher Jack Loughren — and three freshmen getting their first tastes of WPIAL playoff baseball, arrived at the quarterfinal matchup off a 2-0 first-round victory over Beth-Center.

It was a similar scenario to last year when Riverview defeated Charleroi in the 7-10 matchup and led No. 2 Seton LaSalle late in their quarterfinal game at Gateway before the Rebels rallied to win.

Riverview, against OLSH, left a runner stranded at second three times and ran into a couple of baserunning miscues that hurt their chances of getting on the board.

Loughren gave up eight hits — three of which came in the seventh — and walked two while striking out five.

“I look back, Jack’s last three games, he gave up just two runs over 21 innings,” Gras said. “He gave up one run to Greensburg Central Catholic and went the distance and then shut out Beth-Center. Then he throws another six shutout innings there in the quarterfinals before (OLSH) got that run across. I just couldn’t ask for anyone to perform better than he did.

“Jack’s a born leader. Those kids all throughout the team really looked up to him. He was the heartbeat of this team.”

Loughren finished the season 7-3 with a 1.85 ERA. He struck out 65 and walked 25 in 56 2/3 innings.

“Even though we lost that game (against OLSH), it was probably one of the most fun games I’ve been a part of,” Loughren said. “I pitched well, but what was even more important was the defense behind me. I don’t think we had a single error. Every single play was made. My strikeout stuff wasn’t on, but I was able to get a lot of ground balls, and the guys made plays behind me. The outfield tracked down some great balls.

“Being in those low-scoring, competitive games are fun, not so much as a hitter, but as a pitcher, just going back and forth with the emotions and adrenaline that come with it. Even though we didn’t come out on top, it was probably the most I ever gave to a baseball game. I know my teammates did, too.

“We supported each other and gave ourselves a chance to win that game. OLSH is a great team, and we didn’t back down from them. It just didn’t go our way that day.”

Loughren is not done with baseball. He will be playing in a local college league this summer before moving on to Division III Denison.

“I am really excited for the opportunities there,” he said.

Loughren came back from a broken leg suffered in his sophomore football season and fashioned a standout varsity baseball career.

“That kind of motivated him more,” Gras said. “He missed the whole basketball season that year, too. He didn’t take playing the games he loves for granted.”

Gras said he is looking forward to what the returning players are able to do with this year of experience under their belts and motivation to get back to the postseason.

“We’re going to do some things together in the fall,” Gras said. “Being a small school, it’s tough to get players out of season. Almost every kid on this team plays another sport in the fall, whether it’s football, soccer or cross country. To get them together in the fall is tough. We’re going to try to see if we can get teams to play doubleheaders on Sundays, maybe five or six of them.

“I think the freshmen only have scratched the surface of what they can do. The next three years are going to be fun to watch them grow.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.


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