Blackhawk's bats silence Thomas Jefferson
Brandon Mansell and Brendan Kearney gave Thomas Jefferson pitcher Greg Schneider a lot to think about after the pair teamed up to break up a no-hitter and score the winning run for Blackhawk in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals.
They cemented their spot in the Pitt recruit's nightmares in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals Thursday night at North Allegheny as Kearney drove in Mansell for the game-winning run in the top of the seventh as Blackhawk (22-2) moved into the state semifinals with a 6-1 win.
“Going into the at-bat, Mansell got on, and I was looking for a fastball from Schneider. And the first pitch I swung, and it went foul, and I knew I was on it,” Kearney said. “On a 2-2 count, he threw it outside, and I just went with it down the first-base line, and we took the lead.”
In the first game between the two, in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals, Mansell singled, and after Kearney laid down a bunt, Schneider slipped trying to field the ball and threw it from his knees down the right-field line. Mansell came all the way around to score the only run in a 1-0, nine-inning victory.
“I really don't think there was any difference; just going in confident against a good pitcher and seeing the ball and hitting the ball,” Mansell said. “As soon as I hit the ball this time, I thought it was going to be caught, and I just got up and ran. It fell, and the rest is history.”
Schneider had surrendered only two earned runs all season before he was touched up for three in the top of the seventh. With one out, Mansell hit a clean triple to right-center field, then Kearney followed with a single to give Blackhawk a 2-1 lead.
After Blackhawk loaded the bases, Schneider, who struck out 11 in this one and 26 in the two games between the teams, was pulled from a start while trailing for the first time all season. Matt Emge and Tyler Craig greeted reliever Joe Shaffer with a pair of infield singles, then Shaffer pegged Steve O'Hara with the bases still loaded to plate Brendan McKay and put the Cougars up, 5-1.
“I probably left him in a little too long,” Thomas Jefferson coach Rich Krivanek said. “He was right around 100 pitches — when I took him out, he was at 101 — but it was a long season, and he probably wore down a little bit, and I should have gone to Joe a little sooner.”
Schneider helped put Thomas Jefferson in a position to win only the second state playoff game in school history. With the Jaguars trailing, 1-0, in the bottom of the sixth after Blackhawk scored an unearned run in the top of the frame, he tripled for the third consecutive game and drove in Ryan Ruffing to tie the score at 1.
It was the first run that Blackhawk sophomore southpaw Brendan McKay had allowed in 14 2⁄3 innings against Thomas Jefferson in two playoff games. It was also the last; after being staked to a five-run lead, he struck out the side in the seventh to finish with 12 for the game.
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org