Trib HSSN Baseball Team of the Week: June 14, 2021

Sunday, June 13, 2021 | 8:38 PM

For the second season in a row, the Serra Catholic baseball team had its hopes of a WPIAL championship crushed in a one-sided loss to Seton LaSalle.

However, like in 2019, the Eagles are flying high in the state playoffs, a journey that actually began in the WPIAL Class 2A consolation game.

“The mindset was let’s beat Carmichaels and get the No. 3 seed,” Serra Catholic coach Brian Dzurenda said. “We needed to refocus and the new ‘seeding game’ was just what the doctor ordered. It allowed us to play a game knowing we were already in the PIAA tournament without having to stress and enjoy competing again.”

After beating the Mighty Mikes, the Eagles’ first-round opponent in the PIAA tournament was District 6 champion Southern Huntingdon.

The game was a wild one. Serra Catholic enjoyed a 4-0 lead before Southern Huntingdon tied it with four runs in the fourth inning.

The Rockets exploded for seven runs in the fifth and sixth inning and led 11-5 heading into the seventh.

Then the Eagles state playoff magic kicked in. Zack Miklos hit a game-tying two-run single during a six-run seventh inning, and Jayden Mertz delivered a game-winning two-run double in the eighth for a wild 13-11 first-round win.

“Not sure what the key was (to the comeback); if I knew, we’d bottle it and do it every game,” Dzurenda said. “I suppose not to lose focus. We took quite a few pitches during the comeback and forced their pitcher to throw strikes. When he did, we had eight legit hits in the seventh inning, might be a record for us.”

The win set up a rematch in the PIAA quarterfinals with Seton LaSalle, a team that crushed Serra, 12-0, in the district semifinals.

“We felt embarrassed after we were 10-runned by Seton LaSalle, and I told the kids it would be different should we play them again,” Dzurenda said.”

Different indeed. The Eagles jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning and scored three more in the fourth inning and won 4-1.

“I watched the WPIAL championship from beginning to end four times,” Dzurenda said. “Each time I picked a few things up. We had a more passive approach batting, taking a lot of pitches and stayed aggressive on the base paths. We practiced hitting from the start of the at-bats with a two-strike approach. Seton’s pitchers are great and we knew we would have to play flawlessly offensively to be in the game. Defensively, all the credit goes to Zac Karp, who threw a three-hitter. He was able to throw the pitches we called to perfection and keep their hitters off balance. Our outfielders continued their exemplary play tracking down some hard hit balls.”

Dzurenda admits he was very emotional after Thursday’s victory over the Rebels.

“After the 12-0 loss, I called some kids out for rolling over and not putting up the resistance that I thought was warranted. The kids really took this to heart,” he said. “We have a rich tradition with our Serra baseball team and that needs to be respected by all our players. We expect to win, but always know there are teams better than us. We don’t have the best talent year in and year out, but we need to put forth the best effort to compete. By winning this game against a superior opponent talent-wise, it validated who we are and the effort and preparations that we put forth. No one loves Serra baseball more than I do, and it meant the world to me that the kids responded to the call after losing 12-0.”

A return trip to Penn State is at stake Monday when Serra Catholic squares off with WPIAL champion Shenango.

“It’s a bonus game for us,” Dzurenda said. “They are a fantastic team. Much more talented man for man than we are. We are in the Western Region finals with nothing to lose.”

2021 Trib HSSN Baseball Teams of the Week:

Week 10 – Shenango Wildcats

Week 9 – Montour Spartans

Week 8 – Peters Township Indians

Week 7 – Eden Christian Academy Warriors

Week 6 – Laurel Highlands Mustangs

Week 5 – Bethel Park Black Hawks

Week 4 – Hopewell Vikings

Week 3 – Hempfield Spartans

Week 2 – Shaler Titans

Week 1 – Valley Vikings


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