Shaler baseball tops South Fayette on 10th-inning balk

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 | 9:32 PM

As Shaler and South Fayette’s battled it out for a second straight day, the question became which team would blink first as their Section 3-5A game went into extra innings.

It wasn’t a blink, but a twitch that brought home the winning run.

Senior Braeden Campbell scored the game-winning run on a 10th-inning balk as Shaler edged South Fayette, 5-4, Tuesday afternoon at South Fayette.

The win earned the Titans a split of their back-to-back games after the Lions won Monday, 5-3.

Shaler scored the run in the 10th without a hit.

Junior Bryan Rincon walked and went to second base on a wild pitch. He then got caught in a rundown between second and third on a Campbell bouncer back to South Fayette pitcher Mike DiMartini. Rincon stayed in the rundown long enough for Campbell to reach second base.

Campbell reached third base on a ground ball back to the pitcher by junior Miguel Hugas for a second out.

With senior Tre Junker at the plate, Campbell pretended to break for the plate, and his distraction caused DiMartini to balk home the go-ahead run.

South Fayette was able to get a baserunner on a two-out error in the bottom of the 10th before senior Aiden Williams got DiMartini to ground out to end the dandy of a ballgame.

“South Fayette is a great team,” Shaler coach Brian Junker said. “They’re special, I think we’re special, and I think you saw that out there.”

Lions senior Ryan McGuire led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored on two ground outs.

Then Shaler struck for a pair of runs in both the second and third innings. Senior Ethan Rowell delivered a bases-loaded single off South Fayette starter Chase Krewson to tie the game, then Noah Gabriel hit into a fielder’s choice to put the Titans up, 2-1.

In the next inning, Hugas scored on an error and senior Alec Englemore drove home freshman Brady McGuire with a single to increase the Shaler lead to 4-1.

The score stayed that way until the bottom of the fifth inning when South Fayette scored three unearned runs off Hugas following a rare Rincon error. Sophomores Krewson and DiMartini delivered run-scoring hits to tie the game, 4-4.

“We had a lead at 4-1, and it felt bigger than that,” Junker said. “Then Rincon kicks that one and he never kicks one, and that was the turning point, but these guys keep fighting. We’ve been in these kinds of games before. Teams several years ago, when a team comes back like that, you lose it. Not with these guys.”

Pitching took over after that. Hugas pitched eight innings, followed by Aidan Williams for Shaler while Krewson threw six innings and DiMartini four innings for South Fayette.

The Hugas-Williams combo for the Titans allowed only one earned run and eight hits without walking a batter.

“That’s great because that’s what we preach: work fast and no walks” Junker said.

South Fayette played without head coach Ken Morgan, who spent the day with his wife Jen and their newborn daughter Rosie, who was born Tuesday morning.

The Shaler win combined with a West Allegheny victory over Chartiers Valley leaves Shaler and West A tied for first place with 5-1 section records. South Fayette is a game back at 4-2.

Next week, the Titans and Indians square off for two games with the section lead at stake.

“We look forward to the challenge,” Junker said. “We’re going to battle and see what happens.”

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