Trib HSSN Baseball Team of the Week: June 7, 2021
Sunday, June 6, 2021 | 9:59 PM
Shenango had a fantastic regular season, winning 16 of 18 games, including the final 14 while outdistancing the rest of a tough Section 2-2A by two games.
They were the No. 2 seed in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs and beat Northgate, Neshannock and Carmichaels on the road to the finals by a combined score of 24-8.
So why were some shocked when Shenango dethroned Seton LaSalle as WPIAL champions, 2-1, in the title game?
“It didn’t bother me that people believed that our victory in the championship game was an upset,” Shenango coach Larry Kelly said. “We used the underdog role to our favor all week. I told my guys that everyone was predicting that Seton LaSalle would win, however, it doesn’t matter what anybody else thought, it only mattered what we believed. And my team never doubted that they could win. This team has won 18 games in a row, and that didn’t happen by accident.”
Seton LaSalle scored 32 runs in three playoff victories, however senior pitcher Shane Cato was awesome for Shenango.
“Shane Cato is a special young man,” Kelly said. “He has steely determination. He is unflappable. The bigger the moment gets, the better he plays. I told him before the game that I wouldn’t want anybody else in the WPIAL pitching for us in this championship game. Shane is our lead dog, and he determines the speed of our sled.”
So what was behind Cato’s success in limiting Seton LaSalle to one run on five hits with one walk and four strikeouts?
“Shane was throwing two pitches for strikes,” Kelly said. “We were pitching backwards most of the game starting the batters off with a curveball and then finishing it with his fastball. Shane doesn’t have overpowering velocity, however his fastball location is impeccable.”
For all of the offensive firepower in both dugouts, Kelly felt this championship game was going to low-scoring.
“I knew that Seton LaSalle was throwing a great pitcher. I also knew that Shane was a great pitcher. Good pitching always dominates good hitting, and so I expected that the game would be low scoring.”
Another key player in the Wildcats first WPIAL baseball championship was senior Gabe Yanssens.
In the first inning with two men on, Brett Wagner drilled a ball to left field. Somehow, Yanssens made the catch as he was falling to the ground, saving two runs for Shenango.
“Gabe Yanssens started the season for us as a catcher. He did a great job behind the plate,” Kelly said. “We moved him to left field not because he wasn’t a great catcher. We moved him to left field because we needed a great leftfielder and he filled that role.”
In a scoreless game in the top of the sixth, Yanssens’ bat came up big as he delivered a two-run single to put the Wildcats up for good.
“When Gabe came up to bat in the sixth inning with two runners in scoring position, I told him that I wouldn’t want anybody else at the plate in this moment,” Kelly said. “He has gotten more two-strike, two-out RBI hits for us than anybody on the team. I told him this is your time go do it, and he did.”
Now the Wildcats begin a quest for more gold, this time in the state playoffs, which begin Monday. Shenango will face Mount Union in a first-round game at North Allegheny.
“There is always a hangover after winning a WPIAL championship,” Kelly said. “I also coach basketball at New Castle High School, and so I know what that hangover looks like. We’ve worked the last several days on refocusing to be sure that we are ready to play on Monday. I know that we will be ready to play on Monday. I have a special group of young men.”
2021 Trib HSSN Baseball Teams of the Week
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
More Baseball• PIAA Class 5A baseball championship preview: Bethel Park vs. Red Land
• PIAA Class A baseball championship preview: Eden Christian vs. Halifax
• Future 1st-round MLB Draft pick awaits Bethel Park in PIAA final vs. Red Land
• Shenango shuts out Serra Catholic, advances to 1st PIAA championship game
• High school roundup for June 14, 2021: West Greene rolls past DuBois C.C. in PIAA semifinals