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Neshannock wins 5th WPIAL baseball title

| Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 8:10 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Neshannock pitcher Alex Strittmatter strikes out the side during the sixth inning against California during the WPIAL Class A championship game Wednesday May 30, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Park. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Neshannock's John Sansone celebrates after tagging out California's Matthew Bakewell during the WPIAL Class A championship game Wednesday May 30, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Park. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
California's Joshua Luko reaches for a ball during the WPIAL Class A championship game against Neshannock Wednesday May 30, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Park. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Neshannock's John Sansone and David Burkes celebrate after getting California's Matthew Bakewell out during the WPIAL Class A championship game against California Wednesday May 30, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Park. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
California center fielder Patrick Tunney dives for a ball during the WPIAL Class A championship game against Neshannock Wednesday May 30, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Park. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Neshannock players celebrate after defeating California in the WPIAL Class A championship game Wednesday May 30, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Park. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Ejected and maybe a little dejected during Neshannock's WPIAL Class A quarterfinal triumph May 16, pitcher Alex Strittmatter was given two options by his coach.

“I told him ‘You can sit and hopefully get the ball on championship night, if you keep (your teammates) positive, keep them up. Or you can sit there and pout,'” Mike Kirkwood recalled after the senior was thrown out for running into the catcher, leading to a suspension for last week's semifinals.

“‘I think I know which you're going to choose.'”

With the right-hander standing tall on the Consol Energy Park mound Wednesday evening in the league title game, his answer was clear.

Against offensively overwhelming and undefeated No. 2 seed California, No. 1 Neshannock's ace struck out 10 in a 5-0 victory. It is the second consecutive title and fifth overall for the Lancers, who are moving to Class AA next seson.

“We've made it to three consective WPIAL championships, and I pitched in all three,” Strittmatter said. “I just kept thinking I'd rather be known as the pitcher who won two instead of losing two.”

California's T.D. Conway matched Strittmatter's strikeout total, and the pair put on a tense duel over the first four innings, with both escaping bases-loaded situations. But the Trojans' starter tired as the game went on.

Strittmatter scored on an error with two outs to open the scoring in the fourth, and Ryan Giangiuli earned the game's first RBI with a single in the next inning. The Lancers sealed the win with a three-run sixth inning that featured two more errors before John Conglose's two-run double.

“T.D., he's in great shape,” Trojans coach Don Hartman said. “But he did throw a lot of pitches today, more than normal. ... Bottom line is we didn't hit the ball when we had our opportunities.”

California (19-1) will attempt to begin a new winning streak Monday against the District 6 champion in the first round of the PIAA tournament. Neshannock (21-2) meets the runner-up from District 6 the same day and is looking to end a different streak — they've lost in the opening round two years in a row.

“We definitely have a chip on our shoulder from last year,” Lancers shortstop John Sansone said. “We've been circling it since last year.”

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