Shenango shuts out Serra Catholic, advances to 1st PIAA championship game

Monday, June 14, 2021 | 10:17 PM

Shenango senior Shane Cato led his team with his arm and his bat. Now the Wildcats’ Path to Penn State is complete.

Cato pitched six-plus scoreless innings and also doubled in a pair of runs as Shenango earned its first trip to the PIAA Class 2A baseball title game with a 5-0 victory over Serra Catholic in a state semifinals game Monday at Neshannock.

“Shane Cato is the lead dog that determines the speed of our sled, both on the mound and at the plate,” Shenango first-year coach Larry Kelly said. “He was the best player in Section 2-2A, and if Larry Kelly has any say so, he is the Player of the Year in the WPIAL in 2A.”

Cato blanked the Eagles through 6 2/3 innings, allowing four hits with eight strikeouts.

In the fifth inning, Cato showed off his offensive prowess with a two-run double to the fence in left-center field that gave the Wildcats a 4-0 lead.

“He’s 10-1, you can’t get him out, he hits .500 and when there are two guys on base, he wrecks one to the wall that gives us a four-run lead and completely changed the game.”

The Grove City recruit walked one and was one batter away from a complete game when he reached the pitch limit and had to exit when Matt Bisceglia singled with two outs in the seventh.

“He was dealing, he was throwing hard, he was spotting,” Serra Catholic coach Brian Dzurenda said. “We were taking a lot of pitches because just looking at his stats, he walked a lot of guys and hit a lot of guys, so we came in with the game plan that we were going to get his pitch count up and get him out of the game, but he obviously made it into the last inning.”

Shenango scored two runs in the top of the first inning on RBI singles by Ethan Bintrim to drive home Cre Calabria and Zach Herb’s single scoring Bintrim.

“It give me a lot of confidence, pitching with the lead, just throwing strikes and making them put the ball in play,” Cato said.

Gabe Yanssens singled home Cato for the game’s final run in the seventh.

Zach Herb entered in relief after Cato reached his pitch count limit with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Herb got Zach Black to fly out to center for the final out.

“I felt great,” Cato said. “I was spotting up on the outside (corner), throwing strikes, throwing good.”

Shenango improved to 23-2 with its 21st consecutive win and will play Schuylkill Haven in the PIAA Class 2A title game at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Penn State.

“For Larry Kelly, who is 67 years old, this is a gift from God,” Kelly said. “But this is not about me, this is about them. I’ve been fortunate to be an assistant coach for New Castle basketball so I’ve experienced this. I wanted them to experience this.”

Serra Catholic (21-5) fell one win short of a return trip to the PIAA championship game. The Eagles are now 4-3 in state semifinals games.

“That’s just a better team than us, and that’s basically what I told the kids,” Dzurenda said. “We took it as far as we could take it and we tip our caps to Shenango. We did everything we could do to prepare for them, to game plan for them, they’re just a better ball club than we are right now.”

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