Top 15 baseball finals in 15 years at Wild Things Park: Seneca Valley upsets Baldwin in 2014
By: Don Rebel
Monday, May 14, 2018 | 10:19 PM
The TribLive High School Sports Network is counting down the Top 15 WPIAL baseball championship games held over the past 15 years at Wild Things Park.
Catch all the postseason action on the exclusive broadcast home of the WPIAL baseball playoffs, the TribLive High School Sports Network.
Here's a look at No. 15:
2014 Class AAAA championship: Seneca Valley 5, Baldwin 2
They gave hope to every future baseball team that barely made it into the postseason. They stunned the district, winning a WPIAL championship as the No. 16 seed. The poster child of “anything can happen once the playoffs begin” was the 2014 Seneca Valley Raiders.
Seneca Valley needed wins in two of its last three section games to finish 5-5 in Section 1-AAAA, tied for third place with North Hills.
When the committee came together, the Raiders' 6-11 overall record did them no favors, and they were seeded last in a 16-team postseason field.
Then ace pitcher Connor Coward returned from a season-long, nagging back injury just in time for the playoffs. He proved he was physically set to go as he put his teammates on his back and led them to the finals with a 10-5 shocker of top-seeded Hempfield, a 3-0 whitewash of Shaler and a 5-4 eye-brow raising win over Pine-Richland.
In the finals, the Raiders faced Section 3 champion Baldwin. The Highlanders were enjoying one of their best seasons in program history; they were 16-2 heading into the Finals at Consol Energy Field.
Baldwin looked like it might roll to its first district title when it plated two runs in the first on RBI singles by starting pitcher Alex Pantuso and Chris Eisel. The Highlanders were looking for more before Coward, struggling with his control, got a big out to leave the bases loaded.
Seneca Valley cut the deficit to one before taking control in the fifth.
Matt Rafferty homered to tie the game 2-2. That was followed by a Vince Augustine triple and an RBI single by Coward as the Raiders took the lead for good. John Davis and John Harper added run-scoring singles before the inning ended, making it 5-2.
Coward mixed his pitches up following his first inning struggles, and that paid off in keeping the hot-hitting Highlanders off balance the rest of the game.
Then-Baldwin coach and current Mt. Lebanon assistant coach Dan Caponi spoke for all the teams Coward and the Raiders surprised when asked what happened against the No. 16 seed.
“I think it had something to do with the Division I pitcher being healthy enough to throw in that game,” he said.
Don Rebel is a TribLive High School Sports Network broadcaster and staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.