Shaler uses small ball to eliminate Moon from playoff contention
By: Don Rebel
Tuesday, May 7, 2019 | 10:36 PM
Small ball is alive and well at Shaler.
In an era where the bunt has become a lost art and is frowned upon by baseball sabermetrics, Shaler bunted five times, including four times in a span of five batters in a four-run fifth inning during a 9-4 win over Moon.
The win clinched second place for the Titans (11-6, 6-4) in a tough Section 2-5A, and the loss combined with a South Fayette win over North Hills, eliminated Moon (9-7, 4-6) from the playoff chase.
“We had some good at-bats, and we were hitting the ball hard,” Shaler coach Brian Junker said, “and then we got to get our bunt game going. Sometimes when we get that going and we execute, the wheels fall off.”
The wheels fell off for host Moon in the fifth inning when Shaler senior Justin DeSabato hit a chopping ball along the third base side for an infield single.
Then Shaler turned to small ball.
Braeden Campbell bunted and reached on an error when third baseman Nic Mari could not come up with the stopped ball on the grass.
Colton Schott bunted and everybody was safe when Moon catcher Ryan Meneskie threw the ball late to third base.
After a Max Menner bunt was fielded by Meneski, who stepped on home for a force out at the plate, Nick Rispoli singled home a run over the drawn in infield.
Then Zach Hernon laid down a perfect bunt for a run-scoring single. Four bunts in five batters produced two runs and loaded the bases. The Titans scored two more runs in the fifth on a sacrifice fly and a steal of home.
While the fifth inning sealed the win for Shaler, the third inning got the Titans back in the game.
Trailing 4-1 and with nobody on and two outs, Hunter Boyan, Colin Harger and Will Jamison hit consecutive singles to load the bases.
One big swing of the bat by DeSabato cleared the bases as he doubled to left field off Moon starter Tony Tamilia to tie the game.
“The pitcher fell behind in the count, so I was just sitting on a fastball,” DiSabato said. “I got a pitch I could drive, and I drove it.”
DeSabato, Boyan and Harger all had three hits for Shaler, which had clinched a playoff berth Monday with a win over North Hills.
“You never know how teenagers are going to react,” said Junker when asked about this game being must-win for Moon but not Shaler. “We asked them to come in here and give everything they got, throw strikes, field the baseball and have energy and attitude, and they did.”
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.