Share This Page

Ace helps Hopewell move on in playoffs

| Thursday, May 17, 2012, 12:29 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Hopewell's Tim Hughes celebrates after recording the final out against Greensburg Salem in a WPIAL Class AAA playoff game Wednesday May 16, 2012 at Burkett Complex in Robinson. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

When Hopewell pitcher Stefan Mrkonjac entered the game in the fourth inning, he had trouble with his control.

He quickly found it, and No. 3 Hopewell squeezed out two runs in the sixth inning as it rallied for a 2-1 win against No. 6 Greensburg Salem in a WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal Wednesday at the Burkett Complex in Robinson Township.

In the semifinals Monday or Tuesday, Hopewell (18-3) will play Belle Vernon, which defeated No. 2 Mars, 7-1.

With the game scoreless, pitcher Tim Hughes walked the leadoff batter. Hopewell coach Joe Rubino then called for his ace, but Mrkonjac allowed a single by Greg Neumann, hit Craig Walor and walked Rege Garris to force in Sam Mattei.

After a quick talk from the pitching coach, Mrkonjac found his groove, retiring the final 12 batters.

“He was rushing his mechanics,” Rubino said. “He got it corrected, and the last couple of innings he was pretty unbelievable.

“The way he started, my heart jumped into my throat at that point. But he's a warrior and, as uptight as I was, he was equally as calm. He struck with it because he knows what he can do and went out and did it.”

Mrkonjac struck out seven during the final four innings, including six in a row.

“We loaded the bases twice and let them off the hook, especially when you have no outs,” Greensburg Salem coach Jim Stewart said. “Patrick (Boyer) pitched great for us. Anytime you allowed two runs, especially with our team, you think it would be enough. We met three excellent pitchers in the playoffs.”

Greensburg Salem could only muster two singles. It left the bases loaded in the third and fourth.

Boyer allowed five hits, and both runs were unearned. Greensburg Salem's defense picked off two runners and cut another down at the plate on a wild pitch.

Hopewell finally scored in the sixth when Mrkonjac reached on an error. He moved to second on a wild pitch, and Hughes walked.

Logan Johnston singled home Mrkonjac, and both runners advanced a base on a throw to the plate. That's when Rubino called for a squeeze: Dave Claypole getting the bunt down with Hughes scoring.

“We scouted them on Tuesday, and we told the team they sort of play like we do,” Rubino said. “They're a scrappy bunch, and runs come at a premium and you have to take advantage of your opportunities.

“Even though we were failing to get a clutch hit, to our players' credit, they kept with it. We didn't get frustrated. They knew if they kept battling, good things would happen.”

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5095 or at pschofield@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.