Vincentian Academy baseball thwarts Jeannette’s title defense with semifinal victory
Tuesday, May 22, 2018 | 9:18 PM
Jeannette starting pitcher Seth Howard gave everything he had.
After throwing 23 pitches in relief Monday in an extra-innings win over Quigley Catholic, Howard was back on the hill 24 hours later and grinded through three innings, limiting Vincentian Academy to one run to keep the Jayhawks in the game.
But the tank started to run empty in the fourth, and Vincentian took advantage.
The top-seeded Royals got timely hitting and exercised patience at the plate, drawing a couple of bases-loaded walks and plated five runs in the fourth. The big inning combined with seven strong innings from starter Aidan Thomson were enough to eliminate defending champion and fifth-seeded Jeannette with a 6-0 victory in the WPIAL Class A baseball semifinals Tuesday at Fox Chapel.
Vincentian sent 11 batters to the plate in the fourth and Howard tried his best, but the Royals fouled off pitches, stayed deep in counts and won battles.
“Coming off of basketball we gradually worked (Howard) into trying to give us seven innings,” Jeannette coach Marcus Clarkson said. “He hadn't done it all year, but we were trying to get him to that point. He ran out of steam a little bit, but I love the effort.
“They hit the ball and did what they were supposed to do. We didn't do a terrible job of catching it, but a couple of their fly balls were up in the air for a long time and we just didn't get there to get it.”
After enduring several years of heartbreak in the playoffs, Vincentian Academy (15-4) advanced to the WPIAL finals for the first time in school history. They'll face Section 1 rival Union next week at Wild Things Park.
“We've been close the last couple of years, and I'm just so happy for the guys,” Vincentian coach Brad Bestic said.
Jeannette (13-4) plays Section 2 rival Greensburg Central Catholic in the consolation game, with the winner advancing to the PIAA tournament.
Howard yielded an RBI double to UConn commit Kyler Fedko in the first, but retired the seven of the next 10 batters he faced before things snowballed in the fourth. Vincentian Academy had its first five batters reach base, starting with a leadoff double by Thomson. Nathan Christian followed with a single, and Nate Stover walked to load the bases. Sean McGrail walked and Jared Katz was hit by a pitch. Howard was lifted after an RBI single by Jake Stotsky made it 5-0. Tyler Elliott took over and pitched the duration of the game.
Jeannette had a couple of opportunities early on to get Howard a run or two, but made several outs on the bases. With runners on the corners and one out in the first, courtesy runner Devin Houser was caught trying to swipe second, and then Tre Cunningham struck out to end the inning.
Derrick Miller hit a one-out single in the second, but was picked off by Vincentian catcher Mark Yakim. Michael McCabe led off the third with a double, but was picked off by Thomson before the next pitch was thrown.
“In the first inning their catcher just made a good throw and got our guy out, but those other two hurt,” Clarkson said. “When you get a leadoff double, you can't get picked off at second. (McCabe) is a younger player, and he'll learn from that.”
After McCabe was picked off, Thomson didn't allow another base runner. Thomson kept Jeanette off-kilter with a 3⁄4 arm slot delivery and showed good movement on a sinking fastball. He retired the last 14 batters he faced and finished with seven strikeouts.
“As a coaching staff, we always had confidence that Aidan was going to be the guy he was today once he became an upperclassman,” Bestic said. “He spotted up when he needed to, stayed composed and didn't let anything get to him. He was excellent.”
Fedko finished 2 for 2 with a pair of doubles, walked twice and had two RBIs. Stotsky was 2 for 3 with an RBI.
Jeannette's run as WPIAL champion is over, but it still has incentive in the consolation. Not only do the Jayhawks get to play their rivals in Greensburg Central Catholic, but they have an opportunity to advance to the PIAA playoffs for the second consecutive season.
“I just told those guys that it's a disappointing end, but out season isn't over,” Clarkson said. “A Jeannette team has never won a state playoff game before, so we have that to look forward to. We're going to try and make the other postseason count.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.
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