West Allegheny handles South Fayette in early season 5A baseball showdown

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 | 10:25 PM

Top-ranked West Allegheny used clutch hits on offense and a strong performance on the mound to hand South Fayette its first loss of the season.

Behind Auburn recruit Gavin Miller, the Indians held off the Lions, 7-3, Tuesday afternoon in the first of back-to-back games between the No. 1 and No. 5 teams in the latest HSSN Class 5A rankings.

Miller struggled with his control in the first inning but struck out two to leave a pair of Lions baserunners on.

After that, Miller settled down and kept the South Fayette offense in check.

“I just wanted to bear down,” Miller said. “I didn’t have my good stuff in warm-ups. I struggled in warm-ups and kind of carried it out there. I honestly think it was I focused more out there on the mound.”

While Miller found his control for West Allegheny, South Fayette sophomore sensation Tyler Pitzer never could quite find his groove on the mound.

Pitzer pitched four-plus innings and allowed five earned runs on five hits. His control was off as he walked four and struck out six.

The free pass hurt Pitzer time and time again. He walked four leadoff batters, and two of them came around to score.

Nathan Nolan, fresh up from the JV team, went 3 for 3 with three RBIs for West Allegheny.

“Nathan was one of those guys,” West Allegheny coach Bryan Cornell said. “He played the first three games at the JV level, he started to hit, so we brought him up and inserted him into the lineup, and he’s taken advantage of the opportunity.”

Nolan’s two-out RBI single in the second scored Devan Zirwas and put the Indians up 1-0.

In his next at-bat in the fourth inning, Nolan delivered another big two-out hit, a two-run single that scored Zirwas and Nick Longo to put the Indians up, 3-0.

South Fayette finally got to Miller in the fifth inning. Three straight singles by Ryan McGuire, A.J. Brown and Chase Krewson pulled the Lions to within a run at 3-2.

However, the Indians answered with four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning against three Lions pitchers. Run-scoring singles by Adam Crawford, Luke Lambert and Longo along with an RBI double by Zirwas put West Allegheny up 7-2.

A pair of Indians errors allowed a run to score and brought the tying run to the plate in the top of the seventh inning, but Austin Buzza relieved Miller and struck out Christian Brandi to end the game.

Miler reached his pitch count three batters into the seventh inning. He allowed two earned runs in 6⅓ innings, giving up eight hits and two walks and striking out 11 Lions batters.

“I found my changeup in the fourth or fifth inning,” Miller said. “That helped with the top of the lineup coming through the second time.”

When he’s not pitching, Miller usually plays shortstop for West Allegheny; however, he broke his left hand and is unable to swing the bat at this point.

West Allegheny improved to 3-0 and is tied for first place with Shaler in Section 3-5A. The Indians are 4-1 and have won four straight.

After no-hitting North Catholic in his scholastic debut and allowing one run in a victory over Moon, Pitzer and his team lost for the first time. South Fayette falls to 2-1 in the section and 6-1 overall.

The two teams will make up Monday’s rainout with a game at South Fayette on Wednesday.

Cornell, the veteran West A coach now in his 15th season, loves the back-to-back section games this season.

“Love it, love it. They should do it for the playoffs,” he said. “A three-game series for the playoffs structured the same way. It’s crazy not to do it. Maybe this is a step in the right direction.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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