Error in 9th inning leaves TJ with loss in WPIAL semis
It took 18 innings over two playoff games, but Thomas Jefferson's Greg Schneider finally met his match.
Schneider had his way with Hampton last week when he struck out 17 and didn't allow a run in nine innings. Blackhawk didn't fare much better during Monday's Class AAA semifinal: Schneider struck out 15 and took a no-hitter into the ninth inning.
Actually, what got the best of Schneider was a patch of grass just a couple of feet in front of home plate, and it cost the Jaguars their first trip to the championship game.
Schneider slipped on a sacrifice attempt in the ninth, then threw the ball from his backside over 6-foot-5 first baseman Joe Shaffer's head, allowing Brandon Mansell to score all the way from first base with the game's only run. Blackhawk advanced to the title game for the first time since 2007 with its thrilling 1-0 win at North Allegheny.
Blackhawk (20-2) will play Belle Vernon (18-4) in next week's title game. TJ (15-5) will take on Hopewell (18-4) in the consolation game.
“He was just trying to make a play, and he's such a great athlete that he can make that play,” Thomas Jefferson coach Rich Krivanek said. “If he does that play 10 times, he makes it nine. Unfortunately tonight was the one he didn't.”
The play marred another remarkable playoff performance by Schneider. In two postseason games, he threw 18 innings, struck out 32 and allowed five hits, but all he has to show for it is a 0-1 record and a lot of frustration.
“It was the second game going into nine innings and not getting a run,” he said. “At the same time, I can't worry about it. I just need to pitch.”
Schneider allowed only his third run of the season, albeit unearned. He lowered his ERA to 0.10 as he fell to 8-1.
“He's putting up PlayStation numbers,” Krivanek said. “That's what he's been doing.”
The Pitt recruit was never threatened until Mansell broke up Schneider's no-hitter to lead off the ninth with a chopper up the middle.
“It was a fantastic game,” Blackhawk coach Bob Amalia said. “That Schneider kid is awesome. I have been coaching a lot of years and never faced a kid like that. I was hoping for 10 innings so we could get him out of there so we would have a chance.”
It never got that far because of a decision Schneider wishes he could have back.
“The grass was a little wet up there; there was nothing I could do about it,” he said. “I wish I would've held onto the ball. If I would've held onto it, I think I would've had a better chance. I think we would still be playing right now if I would've held on.”
TJ threatened only once — when Booher doubled to lead off the third. After he moved to third base, Ryan Ruffing and Joe McHugh struck out to end the threat.
Blackhawk ace Brendan McKay, who came into the game with a 0.60 ERA, was just as dominant as Schneider. He struck out 14 and retired the final 21 TJ batters.
“As good as Greg was, McKay was just as good,” Krivanek said. “Both of these kids were as good as advertised. ...
“This was a great game and, unfortunately, it probably should've been the championship game. But we have to rebound and get ready for the consolation game. I'll tell you this: They better be ready for Greg.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1978.