Freshman Rice vaults GCC into PIAA quarterfinals
DUBOIS — Greensburg Central Catholic coach Dennis Reist was hoping to get freshman Paul Rice more plate appearances as his baseball team's playoff run continued.
On Thursday, Reist's lineup maneuver paid off as Rice slammed a bases-loaded double to give the Centurions the lead for good in a 7-2 victory over Oswayo Valley in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals at Showers Field in DuBois.
The Centurions (14-5) will move on to semifinal action Monday against District 9 runner-up Clarion(20-5) at a time and site to be determined.
Oswayo Valley, coming off the first PIAA playoff win in school history Monday, finished 20-3.
Greensburg Central loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fourth to chase Green Wave starter Ryan Graves. After a strikeout, Rice's sinking liner eluded Graves, who had gone into left field after reliever Gage Babcock took over pitching duties.
“I just decided to see the ball and hit it,” Rice said. “I just wanted to put the ball in play. Good things happen when you put the ball in play.”
“We switched some things up with the bottom of the order,” Reist said.
“Paul's been chomping at the bit to get some at-bats in the playoffs. As a freshman, we wanted him to get behind the plate and control my pitchers until we get him some at-bats, and he did a good job with that.”
The hit gave the Centurions a 3-2 lead. Greensburg Central added two runs in the fifth and seventh innings.
Junior right-hander Antonio Cavallo did the rest, limiting Oswayo Valley to three hits over six innings. He gave up solo runs in the second and third innings, and slammed the door after that.
“This was a really, really fun game,” Cavallo said.
“I feel we were a little slow at the beginning, then we got a little pep talk from our coaches and ourselves, and it made it a lot of fun.”
“We told him to throw strikes, and let them make the outs,” Reist said of Cavallo.
Cavallo helped his own cause with three singles and three RBIs.
His base hit in the seventh with two outs brought home Nicolas Ruggeri and Jason Hoover to put the icing on the cake.
Oswayo Valley opened the scoring with a run in the second on Justice Rees' double. Theo Henry, however, strayed too far off third and was thrown out by left fielder Joe LoNigro to end the inning with no further scoring.
“I should have pushed the envelope a little bit, I've been doing it all year,” Green Wave coach Brad Buchholz said. “I should have been more aggressive in getting him to go home. I don't think I coached all that well today.”
Oswayo Valley won the District 9 title.
“It was a fantastic season,” Buchholz said. “At one point, I didn't think we'd get through our league, let alone be district champion.”
James Rice pitched the seventh for Greensburg Central after Cavallo came close to 100 pitches.
George Guido is a freelance writer.