Valley tallies 10 hits; Bailey twirls gem as Vikings earn first-round victory

Thursday, May 20, 2021 | 9:47 PM

Whenever the Valley baseball team has needed a win this season, coach Jim Basilone has turned to senior ace John Luke Bailey.

Heading into Thursday’s WPIAL Class 3A game against Mohawk, Bailey had produced a 6-1 record with 1.41 ERA in 48 1/3 innings.

With the lights shining bright at Highlands High School, Bailey led the No. 7 Vikings (13-7) to another big win. He limited the No. 10 Warriors (11-8) to six hits and struck out eight as Valley earned a 5-1 victory to move on to the quarterfinals, where they will play No. 2 Avonworth on Saturday.

“Tonight, this was the game,” Bailey said. “I had a good regular season, but to prove it to myself that I’m this good as a pitcher, I had to win tonight. Of course, I was nervous coming into it, but this one was huge and it’s such a big confidence booster for us.”

After Bailey set down the Warriors in order in the top of the first inning, his offense presented him two runs and allowed him to settle in.

Catcher Cayden Quinn stroked a double down the left-field line to starts things off, and pinch-runner Luke Caprino came around to score on an Evan Henry RBI single. Two batters later, shortstop Shane Demharter did the same and brought Henry around to score to put the Vikings up 2-0.

“That’s always important. It gets in the other team’s head that they have to catch up, catch up, catch up,” Basilone said about how important it was to score early. “When we tattoo the ball like that and score early, it’s always big because it relaxes the guys.”

Bailey kept the Warriors off the base paths in the first two innings, and they didn’t get a hit until the third. But, in the fourth and fifth innings, it finally looked like the Warriors were going to break through.

After two singles and a sacrifice bunt in the fourth, Bailey stranded two Mohawk runners with a ground ball to Demharter at short.

Then, in the fifth inning, the Warriors pushed across their first run when Marc Conti moved to third on a bunt single and came around to score when home plate was left uncovered.

A walk to J.C. Voss loaded the bases, and Mohawk coach Nick Maiorano thought his team was going to push a few runs across.

“We thought we could figure something out in their offense that we could take advantage of and then it was just a matter of if we could get back in it with a couple of hits,” Maiorano said. “Unfortunately, they didn’t fall down for us.”

Bailey said he relied on his curveball for a strikeout to end the inning and get out of his biggest jam of the evening.

The Vikings gave Bailey a little insurance in the bottom of the sixth inning as Quinn tattooed another double to left-center that scored two more runs to break the game open.

“I was just sitting curveball, and I knew he was going to give me a curveball because he knew I could hit a fastball,” Quinn said about his approach in his fourth at-bat.

Cooper Vance threw six innings and gave up 10 hits for Mohawk while striking out eight and walking two.

After Bailey reached his pitch count in the seventh, Demharter came in to close it out and picked up a fly out and ground ball to end it.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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