Upper St. Clair baseball earns ‘nerve-wracking’ 3-2 victory over rival Mt. Lebanon

Thursday, April 18, 2019 | 1:30 AM

Upper St. Clair never trailed in its baseball battle with rival Mt. Lebanon, but nailing down the victory proved to be a nail-biter for the Panthers.

USC scored two runs in the sixth inning to break a tie and held on to end a Blue Devils rally in the seventh inning to secure a 3-2 victory.

The outcome leaves both teams with 3-3 records in Section 3-6A and tied for fourth place at the midway point of section play.

Leading 3-1 headed to the bottom of the seventh, USC starter Nate Hamel gave up a leadoff single to Jeffrey Dengler and coach Jerry Malarkey decided to go to his bullpen.

“We decided if that first batter got on, we were going to give them a different look,” Malarkey said. “We came with a lefty to show them a different look, somebody with a little different velocity just to try to challenge the meat of their order.”

Junior left-hander Eli Shedd came in and got a strikeout and a fielder choice for a second out, but also walked three batters including a free pass to Colin Dalson that forced home the Blue Devils’ second run.

With the bases loaded, though, Shedd got freshman catcher Jack Smith to fly out to center and preserve the Panthers’ victory.

Leaving the bases loaded in the seventh was an unfortunate theme for Mt. Lebanon. The Blue Devils had eight hits but stranded nine base runners, including eight in scoring position.

Both teams scored a run in the second inning.

Jake Casey, making his first varsity start of the year for USC, tripled and scored on an RBI ground out by Mick Walsh.

Mt. Lebanon tied the game when starting pitcher Cam Knox doubled with two outs and courtesy runner Will McElhatten scored on a single by Dengler.

It stayed tied until a one-out double by Ryan Ghise chased Blue Devils starter Knox.

Jack Palmerine entered and gave up a single to Joe Pulit that put runners on the corner. Ghise scored when Pulit attempted to steal second and Smith’s throw bounded into center field for the game’s only error.

Pulit then scored on an RBI double by Andrew Casey.

That set the stage for a nerve-wracking bottom of the seventh. Things got so bad that Hamel couldn’t even watch.

“It was very nerve-wracking,” said Hamel, USC’s starting pitcher. “I couldn’t watch it actually. I had my hood up and I was looking at the ground.”

The win snaps a two-game losing streak for Upper St. Clair and also ended a six-game losing skid at Mt. Lebanon. The Panthers’ last road win against the Blue Devils was in May 2012, a fact that Malarkey put in perspective afterward.

“I knew there were a couple of presidents that have come and gone since we last won here,” he said.

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