Recap of 1st Round Games from First Commonwealth Field

By Jake Oswalt
Central PA Area Scout

Bishop McCort 6, north star 4

Bishop McCort’s junior RHP Justin Vardian threw five strong innings against previously undefeated North Star (21-1) in a 6-4 victory in the first round of the PIAA playoffs at First Commonwealth Field in Homer City. Vardian was also the winning pitcher in relief in the District 6 championship last Thursday.

The Bishop McCort (20-4) Crimson Crushers began their defense of last year’s Class A PIAA state championship with a well-rounded victory over North Star, a team that made it to the PIAA AA semifinals in 2012. McCort took the lead in the bottom of the 1st inning when Pitt-Johnstown recruit Luke Williams (2-for-2, RBI) brought in Vardian with a sacrifice fly to right field. 

North Star, the District 5 champions, answered with a run of their own in the top of the 3rd inning to tie it at one when Senior Brantly Rice (2-for-3, 2 RBI) drove in Brady Walker with an RBI single to left. 

McCort scored two more runs in the 4th inning when Williams scored on a wild pitch and Brad Coleman drove in a run with a single to left field. The Crushers extended their lead to 6-1 in the 5th inning when Cam Rock scored on a wild pitch and Nathan Neiderhiser followed with a two-run double over the right fielder’s head.  

North Star jumped on reliever Nathan Neiderhiser in the 6th inning for two runs and then made things interesting in the 7th. Rice, a Pitt-Johnstown recruit, drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to left field to cut the lead to 6-4 and Tony Strasiser was walked intentionally to set up a bases loaded, two out situation for cleanup hitter Shane Supanick. Neiderhiser induced a ground ball to end the game.  

Vardian went five innings with three hits given up and only one walk. The righty struck out seven and retired the final eight batters he faced.

shady side 3, blairsville 1 (8 innings)  

Senior Paul McCullough gave Shady Side Academy (16-8) a great start in the PIAA playoffs on Monday. The righty got the win as the Indians rallied for two runs in the 8th inning to knock off District 6 champion Blairsville.

KleindlThe game was scoreless until Shady Side, the District 7 third seed, got a run across. Catcher Jake Kleindl (2-for-4) roped a one-out double to right-center. Eric Larkin later drove Kleindl in with a sacrifice fly to right field.  

McCullough was in cruise control until a sixth inning error helped Blairsville (17-2) get a rally started. Anthony Faulk reached on an error, stole second base and scored on Bobby Thompson’s two-strike single to right field to tie the game at one. McCullough had retired 12 straight Bobcats before the 6th inning error. McCullough allowed only two base runners and struck out five in the first five innings. The righty went seven innings, giving up three hits with no walks, and seven strikeouts.  

Chuckie Scales got things started for SSA in the 8th inning with a leadoff triple to right field. Chris Sawicki (2-for-4, double and RBI) followed with an RBI single to center. With Sawicki at second base and two outs, Evan Eisner grounded a ball between third and short. Shortstop John Distefano made a diving stop but his throw to third base sailed wide and allowed Sawicki to score an insurance run.

Blairsville did not go away easy in the bottom of the 8th. SSA reliever Coleman Strohm gave up a single and two walks to load the bases. He was then able to close out the game when he got cleanup hitter Scott Thompson to ground out to first base to end the threat, leaving the bases loaded.

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