Visnesky, West Mifflin blank Deer Lakes in Class 4A first round

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 | 11:51 PM

It was billed to be a pitching duel, and the WPIAL Class 4A first-round baseball game reached expectations.

West Mifflin's Ben Visnesky and Deer Lakes' Jake McCaskey squared off at Gateway High School.

Visnesky helped himself by driving in the game's only run with a chopper behind first base that was barely fair. It scored Trey Manspeaker and that was enough for the Titans to record a 1-0 victory.

Visnesky went the distance, yielding just five hits while striking out 12. McCaskey also pitched a complete game, giving up just the one run and striking out 10.

No. 6 West Mifflin (15-5) advanced to the quarterfinal round to face No. 3 South Fayette Monday at a time and site to be determined.

“I knew Ben was going to give us a good shot to win the game,” Titans coach Jeff Smith said. “I didn't expect him to shut them out because these teams are a little better than you see during the year, and he did a phenomenal job.”

“It's exciting, I'm glad we're getting to the next level,” Visnesky said. “I'm good friends with Jake, I played with him a few years. He's always been a good player, and he's all heart.”

With Visnesky heading for Gannon and McCaskey to Cal (Pa.), there is a possibility those two could face each other again in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play.

“We just couldn't push one run across,” Deer Lakes coach Josh Tysk said. “We had our opportunities. I thought we had some good at-bats and started to put some pressure on him.”

Deer Lakes had a runner on base the final six innings, but couldn't sustain a threat.

McCaskey got out of a jam in the first inning when Manspeaker and Jonathan Taylor reached with singles. Smith, sensing a low-scoring game, had Visnesky, his No. 3 hitter, bunt the runners up.

After a walk to load the bases with one out, McCaskey struck out the following two hitters to end the threat.

Manspeaker singled to open the third, stole second and came home on Visnesky's single.

Deer Lakes kept the deficit to one with good head-up play in the fourth. After Cameron Leskovitz led off with a single, Dylan Sanders tried to bunt him to second. But Lancers catcher Tyler Smith threw to second to force Leskovitz.

Sanders stole second and went to third on an error. McCaskey came off the mound to field a grounder by Dylan Cannon, and seeing Sanders too far off third, McCaskey got Sanders in a rundown, covering third on the return throw to tag Sanders. At the same point, Cannon had come all the way around to third where he was tagged out.

“He pitched out of a couple of jams,” Tysk said of McCaskey. “The one in the first, then the fourth with a guy on third. As soon as I saw Jake get it, I knew he would run what we practice to perfection.”

Deer Lakes tried to get something going whenever there was a base runner. Pinch runner Andrew Bokulich tried to steal second, and the throw was in front of the base. Shortstop Taylor reached back and barely caught Bokulich.

In the seventh after Greg Geis slapped a one-out single, Cory Slagel sacrificed pinch runner Elliott Knickerbocker to second. But Visnesky struck out Jake Yaconis to end the game.

Visnesky had reached his maximum pitch count and would have been removed had Yaconis reached base.

“Ben did a super job focusing in on his pitch count,” Smith said. “We had somebody in the wings, but Ben's our ace and I'll live and die with him.”

Knickerbocker was the only Lancers' runner to reach second base.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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