Steel Valley falls to South Fayette
Whether it was Thayne Mitrik's backhanded stab or Derek Morrison's 1-6-3 double play, the Steel Valley baseball team continued to find ways to escape trouble during Tuesday's WPIAL Class AA first-round game against fourth-seeded South Fayette.
But by the top of the 10th inning — with the bases loaded, no less — the Lions finally found a hole, as sophomore Tyler Godwin drilled a single up the middle to score the winning run at Boyce Mayview Park in Upper St. Clair.
No more Houdini acts. No more dancing between raindrops. South Fayette scored three runs during the decisive frame and advanced to the Class AA quarterfinals with a 5-3 win.
“Honestly, I want to go back into the book and see,” Steel Valley coach Tim Vickers said. “If you look, we made a couple big-time plays at the end of innings early on. I mean, big-time plays that kept us in that game. What it came down to was a ball finding a hole — finally. Up until that point, our defenders were finding the ball before it found the hole.”
South Fayette will play No. 12 Laurel (16-5), but Steel Valley (9-10) went one-and-done for a second consecutive year after falling to Deer Lakes last spring.
Ben Bobick, Andrew Chuba and Sam Ligeros had two apiece hits for No. 13 seed Steel Valley, but the Ironmen couldn't shake three balks — one that scored the tying run in the seventh — 10 walks (one intentional) and two hit batters.
“We expected more,” Vickers said. “We didn't get it done. That's all I can say. Whatever it was, we just didn't get the job done.”
South Fayette did. And a big part of that was Jake Quattro's four hits and three more from Zach Fonner. Zach Walker earned the pitching win by working nine innings, allowing two runs on eight hits. Aaron Fonner pitched the 10th to earn the save.
Morrison started for Steel Valley and went 6 1⁄3 innings, exiting with one out and two on in the seventh. After Brandon Donovan got Fonner to fly out to center, he stopped mid-pitch, perhaps thinking the umpire called time. A balk was called, and that tied the game.
That, though, would have meant a South Fayette win if not for Mitrik's play with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth. Sliding to his right and deep in the hole between short and third, Mitrik rose and gunned a throw across the infield to nail Chris Sarnowski, who drove in South Fayette's first run.
“That was insane,” Vickers said. “One of the best plays I've ever seen in high school baseball.”
Morrison turned two to end a threat the following inning, and Donovan got a strikeout to leave the bases loaded in the seventh. South Fayette left two more men on base in the eighth before finally breaking through in the 10th.
“We won, but after the game I told the kids, ‘I'm not happy.' ” South Fayette coach James Barton said. “We work very hard with the kids fundamentally, but what going on out there today was way out of character for us. And it almost cost us the baseball game.
“We came out with a win that we're lucky to get.”
Jason Mackey is a freelance writer.