Unbeaten Serra Catholic captures 4th WPIAL baseball title

Tuesday, May 31, 2022 | 3:58 PM

After near-misses the past four seasons, the Serra Catholic baseball team hoisted a WPIAL championship trophy Tuesday afternoon.

The top-seeded Eagles used a strong pitching performance from junior ace Zach Karp and timely hitting throughout their potent lineup to defeat No. 7 Neshannock, 8-2, in the Class 2A final at Wild Things Park in Washington.

The undefeated Eagles (23-0) took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, added a run in the fourth to break a 2-2 tie and put the game away with a five-run outburst in the fifth.

Karp was dominant, throwing a complete-game two-hitter with five strikeouts. Karp said that getting through batters quickly and keeping a low pitch count helped him go the distance.

“It can keep the stress off your arm, just trying to get in and out in four pitches, five pitches,” Karp said. “That’s how I roll with it.”

Karp said trusting his defense was also key in his complete-game performance.

“You just have to throw strikes. You can’t be afraid to keep throwing the ball over the plate,” Karp said. “Just gotta keep getting that across, keep them off-balance, and then let the defense do the work.”

First baseman Joe DeMoss was 2 for 3 with three RBIs, and shortstop Zach Black was 2 for 3 with an RBI. Senior center fielder Eli Kite went 1 for 2 and drove in the winning run in the fifth inning. DH Isiah Petty also had two hits and knocked in a run.

Serra Catholic has now won four WPIAL titles, adding to triumphs in 2009, ‘10 and ‘16. The Eagles lost in the WPIAL semifinals in 2017 and last season and in the finals in 2018 and ‘19. The 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Neshannock fell to 17-7.

Both teams advance to the PIAA tournament, which begins next week.

The Eagles struck first in the game, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first off Neshannock senior starter Sebastian Coiro.

Petty led off with an infield single, which was a bang-bang play at first base. Second baseman Ethan Coddington bunted Petty over, and Black drove in the game’s first run.

Black then stole second base and junior clean-up hitter DeMoss lined a ball into the gap for a double, driving in Black. Coiro retired the next two batters, but Serra Catholic led 2-0.

DeMoss said he made adjustments with two strikes against Coiro during the at-bat.

“It was two strikes, so I widened my base and just tried to stay in my feet and tried to take it wherever he pitched it,” DeMoss said.

Demoss said he knows it’s important to shorten up and to stay balanced when down in the count.

“If you’re striding big and taking a big swing, you’re not gonna hit the ball,” he said.

Neshannock responded by tallying two runs in the third inning on just two hits.

Junior left fielder Luke Glies notched the team’s first hit and senior Joshua Pallerino drew a walk. Senior Joshua Prossen moved the runners to second and third on a sacrifice bunt and senior third baseman Colten Shaffer drove a ball to the warning track for a two-run triple, tying the game 2-2.

In the fourth, junior Michael Schanck walked and then had back-to-back stolen bases. The Lancers had the infield in, and Kite lined a ball past Shaffer for a base hit, giving Serra Catholic a 3-2 lead.

Despite a competitive first four innings of play, Serra Catholic blew the game open in the fifth. The Eagles mustered five runs on just two hits in the inning.

Petty got things going with a single. After the hit, junior Jacob Walzer relieved Coiro. Coddington bunted Petty over and the Lancers intentionally walked Black.

DeMoss had another key hit, lining one into left field for a two-run double.

After a hit by pitch, Shaffer took over pitching duties and walked two consecutive batters. Sophomore Deandre Alberico came in with the bases loaded and finally got out of the inning, but walked a batter and hit a batter, making it 8-2. Neither of the two runs was charged to Alberico.

Karp finished the game for the Eagles, not allowing a hit over the last four innings.

The Eagles had four sacrifice bunts in the game and Coddington’s sacrifices in the second and fifth led to their two biggest innings of the game. DeMoss also bunted in his fourth at-bat, and he believes that their selfless hitting led to many scoring chances.

“We had eight runs here, but there might be games where it’s 3-2 and you’ve got to get insurance runs going into the last inning,” DeMoss said. “You got to be able to get them over and put them in scoring position.”

Coach Brian Dzurenda and the team are taking things easy before they begin to prepare for the state tournament, which begins Monday.

“We’re taking a day off, which we never do,” Dzurenda said. “We’re just going to enjoy the day tomorrow, regroup and we’re going to talk about it on Thursday.”

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