Riverview returns to WPIAL baseball title game for 1st time in 20 years

Tuesday, May 25, 2021 | 8:52 PM

For the first time in 20 years, Riverview is headed for the WPIAL Class A baseball final.

The Raiders jumped on Jefferson-Morgan for four runs in the top of the first inning and kept adding on, defeating the Rockets, 12-2, in five innings at Plum High School.

Tyler Zellefrow and Alexio Ciorra drove in three runs each for the Raiders (11-6), seeded seventh in the bracket. Riverview will seek the first WPIAL baseball crown in the school’s 50 seasons June 1 or 2 against No. 4-seeded Union at Wild Things Park.

“I think it’s like any team: You jump on them, and they get down,” Raiders coach Bill Gras said. “We didn’t let up. We just kept going after them.”

The Raiders took advantage of eight walks from three Rockets pitchers. Seven of the eight Riverview batters who drew free passes scored, among them Jack Loughren, who scored three times.

Luke Migely and Loughren drew walks to start the game, and both advanced on a wild pitch. Ryan Aber scored both runners with a single.

Later in the inning, singles by Ciorra and Aiden Sebastian drove home courtesy runners Mike Lewis and Daniel Roupas, respectively.

After Jefferson-Morgan scored two runs on a triple by Bryce Bedilion and a sacrifice fly by Easton Hanko to make it 4-2, Riverview responded with two more runs in the second. Ciorra’s single brought home a pair against Rockets senior Kyle Clayton.

“We got off to a bad start,” Rockets coach John Curtis said. “We couldn’t find the plate, too many walks. Our kids didn’t seem to be running on all cylinders today.”

Starter and winning pitcher Vince Shook survived a shaky first inning, where he yielded three walks before settling down and retiring 10 of the next 12.

“We’ve been struggling all year with that,” Gras said of Shook’s first-inning blues. “We can’t figure it out. We’ve given him 20-minute warm-ups, 10-minute warm-ups, and we’ve given him no warm-ups and he always struggles through the first inning. Once he does, he shuts them down.”

Riverview added two more runs in the third on a double by Migely and a single by Loughren. In the fourth, Sebastian hit a pop up in short center. Ayden Pratt made a fine catch, but his back was toward the infield, and courtesy runner Ty Laughlin tagged up and scored.

Catcher Zellefrow then delivered the knockout punch in the fifth, blasting a bases-clearing double to score three runs and put the Raiders in a position to employ the 10-run rule.

“This team has been great in the playoffs, energetic, and hitting the hell out of the ball,” Zellefrow said. “This team’s meant for states. We’re built to win a WPIAL championship.”

Riverview also gained an automatic berth in the PIAA playoffs, which begin June 7.

Sixth-seeded Jefferson-Morgan (13-6) will play in a consolation game sometime next week against Eden Christian to determine the third WPIAL entry in the state tournament.

Said Curtis: “We had another pitcher down, and I had to leave Kyle in there as long as we could before we brought in our No. 5 guy. We congratulate Riverview. They’re a fine team. We’re going to rest up and get ready for another game next week.”

Riverview lost to California in the 2001 title game, but the Raiders won the 1983 state title, entering as a WPIAL semifinalist.

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