Trib HSSN Baseball Player of the Week: June 7, 2021

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Sunday, June 6, 2021 | 7:45 PM


Billy Cook was sitting in unfamiliar territory last week. He was calling the shots as New Castle head coach in a WPIAL baseball championship game.

Turns out he had the best seat in the house to watch history play out at Wild Things Park in Washington.

Senior pitcher Rocco Bernadina continued his dominant season with a one-hit performance as the Red Hurricane blanked Montour, 5-0, in the WPIAL Class 4A baseball title game.

“Watching Rocco compete is exciting,” Cook said. “He is extremely competitive, and I know that he will give everything he has on the field. To see that performance in a championship game shows that he’s the real deal.”

WPIAL fans are used to seeing a Red Hurricane sweep up gold on the hardwood in February, but nobody has seen this kind of storm in June before as Bernadina rained all over the Spartans’ championship plans with a heavy downpour of strikeouts.

“Obviously, throwing a one-hitter stands out the most along with the velocity on his fastball, but his control of every pitch on a damp, rainy and humid night stands out the most to me,” Cook said. “Throwing a ball in those conditions is very difficult. Rocco made it look like another day in the office.”

The Kent State recruit retired the first 13 Spartans and allowed only one hit, one walk and struck out 14.

“I never once felt concern going into the game,” Cook said. “Normal pre-game nerves yes, but concern, no. I have confidence in my team. We have great pitching, a great defense behind our pitchers, and the bats are hot right now.”

The Red Hurricane offense got all the runs they would need by scoring two in the first inning. They added single runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings.

“When we scored our first run, Rocco looked at his teammates and said ‘That’s all I needed,’ ” Cook said. “I knew he was locked in the moment I spoke with him that day, but looking into his eyes after the first inning let me know we were about to see a special performance from him.”

Cook said Bernadina’s baseball smarts and his work ethic are big parts of his success.

“Rocco is very knowledgeable about the game of baseball. His instincts are a power tool for him. His overall size is very impressive. Rocco is always looking to improve himself. Whether it’s on the mound, at first base or in the batter’s box, he is constantly trying to make improvements.”

With New Castle known for its basketball success and its tradition of titles in football, Cooks admits it is awesome to add a little baseball gold to the high school’s huge trophy case.

“This title is extremely important to us. We take pride in being the first team to accomplish this. Having a banner hung in the school is something these young men can never have taken away. They made history. We consider ourselves a family and it means everything to us that we share this together. The community, administration, fans and student body have been wonderful. The support that they give us is second to none.”

Now the search for state gold begins Monday with a PIAA Class 4A first-round game against District 10 runner-up Harbor Creek.

“Harbor Creek is a really good baseball team. They are going to come at us with everything they have,” Cook said. “It’s going to be tough game, but we are ready for the challenge.”

2021 Trib HSSN Baseball Players of the Week

Week 9 – Jake Vitale, Union

Week 8 – Adam Crawford, West Allegheny

Week 7 – Steven Budash, Indiana

Week 6 – Spencer Barnett, North Allegheny

Week 5 – Louie Kegerreis, Franklin Regional

Week 4 – Drew Lafferty and Austin Lafferty, South Park

Week 3 – Payton Conti, California

Week 2 – Jake Slazinski, Keystone Oaks

Week 1 – Jake Walker, West Mifflin

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