Trib HSSN Baseball Team of the Week for the week ending June 19, 2022
Sunday, June 19, 2022 | 5:40 PM
Perhaps the Montour baseball team should celebrate the programs first PIAA championship at Kennywood Park, because it was an emotional roller coaster of a season for the Spartans.
The team won 15 straight after an opening loss, then dropped four straight at the end of the regular season.
In the WPIAL playoffs, the top seed beat Quaker Valley and Laurel Highlands before losing a marathon title game to West Mifflin, 5-4 in 12 innings. It was the second straight 4A championship game loss for Montour.
“After the WPIAL finals loss, we took two days off,” Montour coach Bob Janeda said. “I didn’t know and wasn’t really sure what their mindset was going to be when we returned. As expected, there was disappointment and frustration surrounding that game for a number of reasons.
“We met at the start of practice and discussed that while we fell short of one of our goals, we still had the grand prize in front of us and that was the opportunity to win a state championship. We adopted the attitude right there that we had the section title, lost the WPIAL championship but wanted the state championship.”
Wins over Bellefonte and East Pennsboro in the first two rounds of the PIAA playoffs set up a rematch of the District 7 finals with West Mifflin in the state semifinals.
“We were thrilled as we hoped we would see them again,” Janeda said. “We lost the coin flip and were the visiting team, and we were OK with that. We wanted the first chance, and we took advantage of it. Putting two runs up in the first inning was huge. We scrapped and battled that inning to score the two, and I think that set the tone.“
Those two runs would be all senior Dylan Mathieson would need. The Spartans starting pitcher allowed only four hits and struck out 10 in Montour’s 2-1 win.
“Dylan had a bad taste in his mouth from the WPIAL finals,” Janeda said. “He threw a great bullpen in practice two days prior to the semifinals matchup. He fixed what he didn’t execute in the WPIAL championship and got stronger as the game went on.
“He knew it would be his final high school appearance, and he was locked in. Striking out the side in the seventh (inning) gave him 100 strikeouts for the season and closed an amazing season and career for him.”
The revenge win put Montour in the PIAA Class 4A championship game against District 1 champion Holy Ghost Prep.
The Firebirds scored three runs in the first inning before the vaunted Montour offense kicked it into gear with two runs in the third inning and four more in the fourth inning to take a lead, 6-5, midway through the slugfest.
“We had some really good at-bats in the first two innings, but we hit balls hard just right at them,” Jandea said. “We felt that if we could keep the game close we were going to be able to score some runs.
“In the first two state games we scored 25 runs, so we knew if Mason Sike could keep us close on the mound, we would have a shot. He worked hard and kept us in the game, and our offense delivered. We went deep in counts, worked walks, put the ball in play and put pressure on their defense.”
The Spartans held that one-run lead until the Firebirds loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth. One big swing of the bat by Tyler McCord delivered a grand slam that gave HGP the lead, 9-6.
“We needed four outs to win a state championship, and the players wanted it so bad,” Janeda said. “When that ball left the park and hit the foul pole, you saw the collective disappointment in the guys.”
There would be no more silver for this group. The Spartans rallied for four runs in the top of the seventh inning to pull ahead for good, 10-9.
“As the guys came in for our final at-bat, to their credit they were positive and did not quit,” Janeda said. “They wanted this so badly. They were not going to go away without a fight. We were facing their senior closer and knew we needed to find a way to get some runners on and get the tying run to the plate.
“(Brock) Janeda worked a leadoff walk, (Nick) Walker reached on an error and the next thing you know, we have the tying run at the plate with Sike and he delivered again with a two-run single. A couple of walks and error later, and we regained the lead.”
Three outs in the bottom of the seventh and all of the heartbreak from two seasons of coming so close for Montour was washed away in a flood of gold.
As the team continues to celebrate its first PIAA baseball crown, Janeda realizes this truly was a team effort .
“The path that we took is an example of hard work and 100% buy-in from everyone. We developed a road map that began in November in the weight room and ended with us being the best team in 4A in the state.
“There is no substitute for hard work and dedication, and I would challenge anyone to show me a team that outworked us this year.
“We had outstanding senior leadership, amazing commitment from the entire roster and dedicated and prepared coaches. I am going to miss this collective group, but am excited to see the eight seniors be successful at the next level. We will then start the process all over again in a few months. This group will always know two things: They are in the record books as the only state champion in Montour baseball history and two out of three ain’t bad.”
2022 Trib HSSN Baseball Teams of the Week
Week 10: Burgettstown
Week 9: West Mifflin
Week 8: Upper St. Clair
Week 7: Thomas Jefferson
Week 6: West Allegheny
Week 5: Mt. Lebanon
Week 4: Shenango
Week 3: Hopewell
Week 2: Chartiers Valley
Week 1: Beaver
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