Shields brothers pitch Mt. Lebanon past Central Catholic, into WPIAL title game
Tuesday, May 24, 2022 | 9:13 PM
From one brother to another, Derrick and David Shields made sure that Mt. Lebanon would play for a WPIAL baseball title.
Derrick pitched six innings and did not allow an earned run and David shut the door in the seventh with the tying run at second base to lift the top-seeded Blue Devils past No. 5 Central Catholic, 2-1, in the Class 6A semifinals Tuesday at West Mifflin.
David, a freshman, got a called third strike, finishing a lengthy battle with Central Catholic’s Gavin Miller to end the game. He stranded runners on first and second and earned his second save in as many days.
“It was really cool because you know what’s at stake,” David said. “Anybody who tells you they aren’t thinking about that is lying. I had some blood pumping through my veins, but it was fun to get out there. I was confident in my stuff in the bullpen. Just to go out there and let it fly felt really good.”
The Blue Devils will face Section 2 rival Upper St. Clair in the championship game next week at Wild Things Park in Washington. It’s their first trip to the finals since 2012, and they’ll be trying for their first title since 2006.
Prior to the strikeout, Miller fouled off several pitches. Mt. Lebanon coach Patt McCloskey visited with David on the mound to game plan how they wanted to finish the at-bat.
“I just wanted to see if he had confidence in throwing a breaking ball off the plate and he told me he wanted to go with the fastball,” McCloskey said. “David is an awesome kid, and he’s mature enough at 15 years old to have that conversation. It’s not about me telling him what to do. I wanted to see how comfortable he was. He told me he’d miss away with the fastball.
“I asked him if we didn’t get him what he would want with the next pitch and he said change-up. We never got to the change-up.”
Derrick yielded an unearned run in the top of the first. After that, he was locked in. He surrendered only one hit and four baserunners the rest of his outing, finishing with four strikeouts and one walk over six-plus innings.
He exited the game after an error put Nicolas Chirumbolo on first to lead off the seventh.
“Coach told me the first guy that gets on (in the seventh), he was going to take me out and I was fine with that because I was confident in my brother,” Derrick said.
The Blue Devils got both of their runs in the third. Eli Heidenreich led off with a double and later scored on an RBI single by Tanner Donati. Then Donati scored on a delayed steal when the catcher threw down to try and nab a stolen base attempt at second to make it 2-1.
After that, Derrick continued to cruise while holding a one-run lead.
“It definitely does enter your mind, but you still need to have the same approach,” Derrick said of pitching in a tight game. “I just tried to throw strikes and if they hit it, so be it. I can’t control that, but I just wanted to continue to pound the zone with strikes and let my defense work. I trust those guys out there.”
Kelly got on with a bunt single in the first inning and later scored on an error. The Vikings had runners on second and third with one out and looked poised to have a big inning, but Derrick induced a foul out and got a strikeout to escape only giving up one run.
“We were hoping to get a little more out of that first inning, but this is nothing to hang our heads about,” Central Catholic coach John Rende said. “That’s a good team over there. A lot of people didn’t think we would get in the playoffs or get to a semifinal.I’m proud of our guys and it’s a testament to the will of our group of kids to get this close.”
Central Catholic starter Cade O’Leary pitched well, going six innings. He gave up only five hits and struck out two. After Mt. Lebanon’s two runs in the third, O’Leary allowed only three baserunners, none past second base.
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer
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