Riverside baseball team fends off Deer Lakes' upset bid
Deer Lakes' baseball team stood just two outs from pulling off a shocker in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals.
But No. 3 seed Riverside ended up shocking the underdog Lancers with a sudden power surge, scoring four quick runs in the seventh inning for a 6-3 victory at Chippewa Park near Beaver Falls.
The defending PIAA and WPIAL champion Panthers (17-5) advanced to face No. 2 seed Shady Side Academy at a site and time to be determined. No. 6 seed Deer Lakes (11-9) ends its season after winning six in a row.
“I'm extremely disappointed, but this is a higher level of baseball than this program has ever been,” Deer Lakes coach Jon Pedrosky said. “These guys showed they could handle one of the best teams in (Class AA), and we came up just a little short.”
Trailing 2-0, Deer Lakes battled back with three runs in the fifth on three singles, a Riverside two-base error and senior third baseman Ben Lisowski's RBI double.
But with Deer Lakes leading, 3-2, in the top of the seventh, Panthers leadoff hitter Devin Kelosky belted a run-scoring triple to the right-center field gap to tie the game.
Dylan Jones followed with a sharp single to right, giving the Panthers a 4-3 lead, before first baseman Tyler Falk launched a two-run homer over the center field wall.
“(Kelosky) usually hits singles and doubles, but that was one of his longer shots,” Riverside coach Dan Oliastro said of the triple. “We were concerned, but I knew if we just got one guy on, we'd have a chance. I have faith in this team, and my kids are fighters.”
The home run chased Deer Lakes senior right-hander Joe Hoffmann, who allowed three hits through six innings and induced a groundball out to start the seventh before issuing a full-count walk to Panthers No. 9 batter Anthony Meneice. Kelosky tripled one pitch later to tie the game.
“The walk was big, and it was on a pretty borderline (strike),” Pedrosky said.
“Their top of the lineup is strong, and we were hoping to have two outs by the time we got to (Kelosky). Joey threw a (heck) of a game. I'm proud of the way he performed, and he deserved to be out there. He's been such a horse for us for the last few years.”
Hoffman and Jim Fiel singled twice to lead the Lancers, who rapped six hits off winning pitcher Blaise McCarty.
Riverside's junior righty struck out five while walking just one.
“Blaise pitched well, we just ran into a team that pulls the ball,” Oliastro said. “That's probably the most he got hit all year.
“He had one bad inning when he couldn't get his curveball over. Their kid (Hoffmann) was tough. He was around the plate, but he was a little bit off in that last inning.”
Despite the loss, Deer Lakes is the only Alle-Kiski Valley team to win a playoff game the past two years.
“People are going to recognize that this program has come a long way and these kids have come a long way,” Pedrosky said.
“Our expectation goes beyond winning one playoff game, and we're going to be here for years to come.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a freelance writer.