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Thomas Jefferson baseball team advances to PIAA tournament

| Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 8:10 p.m.
----Photo by Ronald Vezzani Jr./For the Daily News Thomas Jefferson coaches and players celebrate their win over Hopewell Wednesday to advance to the PIAA playoffs.

Hopewell accomplished something only West Mifflin was able to do this season when it scored an earned run in the second inning against Thomas Jefferson right-hander Greg Schneider.

Coming up with two was asking too much.

Schneider muddled through a rough second inning but doubled in the go-ahead run in the third to lead Thomas Jefferson to a 2-1 win over Hopewell in the WPIAL Class AAA consolation game at Washington & Jefferson's Ross Memorial Park on Wednesday. The victory earned Thomas Jefferson (16-5), which had scored only one run in its last 21 innings, a spot in the PIAA Class AAA tournament, which is slated to open Monday.

“We had a good approach leading up to this game, and I thought we hit the ball pretty well,” Thomas Jefferson coach Rich Krivanek said. “Now we just have to get back to work on the fundamentals and get ready for, what I gather, will be a long bus ride.”

Schneider got a huge scare in the bottom of the sixth when he was injured sliding into second base on a pickoff attempt by Hopewell reliever Stefan Mrkonja. Schneider broke for second and slid into shortstop Ryan Cox, and both players went down in a heap.

Schneider was on the ground for a couple of minutes holding his left wrist, but he walked off the field and returned to throw a scoreless seventh. He had the wrist iced as a precaution after a game.

Thomas Jefferson will open the state playoffs against District 10 champion Warren at a site and time to be determined. Because of a glitch in the schedule thanks to the City League opting against fielding a team for the state tournament, the winner of the Jaguars-Warren matchup will play the WPIAL champion in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals June 7.

Originally, the WPIAL champion would have played the winner of District 9 and the second-place team would have taken on the City League representative. But the PIAA switched the matchups and now the winner of today's Belle Vernon-Blackhawk game will get the bye and the loser gets nine-time District 9 champion Punxsutawney.

It may not seem like much, but that extra day will likely force Thomas Jefferson to adjust its rotation and pitch Joe Shaffer and hold Schneider in reserve as a three-inning closer in that game to set up a possible rematch with Blackhawk starter Brendan McKay in the second round.

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kbarnes@tribweb.com or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.

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