Upper St. Clair baseball ends losing skid against Canon-McMillan

Monday, April 22, 2019 | 9:12 PM

What a difference 19 days makes.

Three weeks after getting crushed by defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 6A champion Canon-McMillan, Upper St. Clair earned a split of the season series with an 8-3 victory Monday afternoon at Wild Things Park in Washington.

The Panthers’ win also ended a six-game losing streak against the Big Macs, including a 12-0 shutout by Canon-McMillan on April 3.

“I thought the way we came out swinging in the first couple of innings was big,” Upper St. Clair coach Jerry Malarkey said.

USC scored all of its runs in the first three innings.

The Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first when Grant Walnoha, who led the game off with a walk against Canon-McMillan starter Alex Gregory, scored on a fielder’s choice by Joe Pulit. Pulit then scored on a triple by Andrew Casey.

The Panthers increased their lead to 4-0 in the second when Mick Walsh walked, went to third on a double by Harrison Bavaro and scored on a sacrifice fly by Walnoha. Ryan Ghise’s RBI single scored Bavaro’s courtesy runner, Jack Beggy.

The Panthers’ lead doubled to 8-0 in the third when they chased Gregory on a leadoff single by Andrew Casey. After younger brother Jake Casey walked, Mark Krolczyk dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt down the third-base line, and both Casey brothers scored. Krolczyk ended up at third base on a throwing error by relief pitcher Austin Abel.

After a Walsh sacrifice fly scored Krolczyk to make it 7-0, Luke Geisler tripled and scored on a Walnoha single.

Canon-McMillan got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third when Mekos Mantalis scored on an RBI single by Cam Walker. Jonathan Quinque scored on a passed ball to cut the Big Macs’ deficit to six runs.

Upper St. Clair starter Eli Shedd pitched a scoreless fourth, which Malarkey said was one of the keys to his team’s victory.

“I thought when they scored a couple of runs and Eli walked the first guy then got the next three guys to end the inning to keep the momentum (was the key),” he said.

While Shedd survived the fourth inning, he would not finish the fifth.

After getting the first out, Shedd walked the next four batters to make it 8-3. Nate Hamel came in to retire both Brandon Rea and Tyler Greenleaf with infield pop outs to end the Big Macs’ final threat.

Hamel allowed one hit and no runs in the final 2 1/3 innings to pick up the save.

“I struggled with my control at the end, but I feel like I did what I needed to do,” Shedd said. “The team put up eight runs in the first three innings, got me run support and I just went out there and threw strikes.”

The win moved Upper St. Clair (4-3, 8-5) into third place behind Bethel Park and Peters Township in Section 3-6A.

Canon-McMillan (3-4, 7-6) fell into fifth place, a half-game behind Mt. Lebanon for the final playoff spot. The Big Macs visit the Blue Devils in a key section game Thursday.

In the Panthers’ previous win last week at Mt. Lebanon, Hamel stared, got the win and Shedd picked up the save. The roles were reversed on Monday.

“We want to do everything we can to give our team an opportunity to win,” Malarkey said. “If it’s using two starters and combining them, one in a relief role and one as a starter, we’ll do what needs to be done to win.”

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