WPIAL Class 3A baseball championship preview: Hopewell vs. South Park
Tuesday, June 1, 2021 | 2:51 PM
1-Hopewell (16-5) vs. 3-South Park (15-4)
4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Wild Things Park, Washington
Road to the finals
• Hopewell — The top-seeded Vikings faced a challenge from No. 8 Deer Lakes in the quarterfinals, earning a 5-2 victory. They also shut out No. 16 Waynesburg, 4-0, in the first round and No. 4 McGuffey, 15-0, in the semifinals.
• South Park — The Eagles edged No. 14 Brownsville, 7-5, in the first round thanks to a 22-hit output by the offense, including a 4 for 4 effort from Dylan Orth and Zach Lemansky. They also rolled past Ellwood City, 13-5, in the quarterfinals and No. 2 Avonworth, 8-2, in the semifinals.
Secret to their success
• Hopewell — Because the 2020 season was canceled by the pandemic, very few players have WPIAL championship experience. Hopewell can rely on junior shortstop Anthony LaSala and senior pitcher Roman Gill, who played in the 2019 title game. They are the Vikings’ primary starting pitchers, with Gill being 8-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 72 strikeouts and LaSala 5-1 with a 1.89 ERA and 53 strikeouts. Hopewell has limited teams to just over three runs per game this season. They are led at the plate by sophomore Lucas Arington (.421, 3 HRs, 25 RBIs), LaSala (.381, 2 HRs, 17 RBIs), Gill (.358) and junior Christopher Mullins (.352, 2 HRs, 15 RBIs).
• South Park — Teams have had a tough time keeping the Eagles off the scoreboard. They have averaged more than nine runs per game in the playoffs. Leading the way are a pair of cousins — sophomore Austin Lafferty (.518, 2 HRs, 15 RBIs) and junior Kentucky commit Drew Lafferty (.510, 5 HRs, 25 RBIs). Lemansky (.354, 2 HRs, 12 RBIs), Orth (.333) and junior Conner Klingensmith (.327, 2 HRs, 20 RBIs) have also paced the offensive attack. Probable starting pitcher Lemansky also is 4-1 with a 2.58 ERA. In the semifinals, he limited Avonworth to two hits with six strikeouts over five innings.
• Hopewell — The Vikings are trying to claim a fourth WPIAL baseball championship after winning district gold in 1979, 2000 and 2010. The Vikings have come close to title No. 4 twice in the last eight years, losing in nine innings in 2013 and in 2019 in eight innings to Steel Valley. Hopewell led 4-1 heading into the seventh inning two years ago before the Ironmen rallied for three runs to tie and another in the eighth inning to win it.
• South Park — Despite all the success this program has enjoyed, the only WPIAL championship the Eagles have won was the 2013 Class AAA thriller when they beat the Vikings in a classic. Hopewell had chances late to break a 3-3 tie, but left seven runners on base in innings 6, 7 and 8. South Park ended it in the ninth on a bases loaded walk to Adam Thompson that scored Nick Yobbi and kept the Eagles perfect. South Park’s only loss would be to Keystone Oaks in the PIAA quarterfinals. Junior Drew Lafferty is trying to win his second straight baseball title after winning gold with Seton LaSalle as a freshman in 2019.
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.
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