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Steel Valley rallies past East Allegheny after slow start

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:06 p.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Steel Valley's Brandon Donovan takes the mound against East Allegheny on Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at West Field.

All Steel Valley coach Tim Vickers could do was shake his head in disbelief, and who could blame him?

Steel Valley trailed East Allegheny by four runs after a half inning of Wednesday's Section 4-AA opener without the ball leaving the infield.

“It was amazing,” Vickers said.

Amazing, but certainly not insurmountable.

Steel Valley chipped away and then poured it on for six runs over the last two innings, including four unearned in the decisive sixth, to beat East Allegheny, 9-5, at windy West Field in Munhall.

It was Steel Valley's ninth straight win over East Allegheny dating to 2005.

“It was a good comeback win to start the year,” Vickers said. “Our defense sure didn't help in the first inning, but we battled and buckled down after that. I reeled them in real quick to make sure that we were ready to go, but it seemed like they weren't bothered at all.”

Indeed, the Ironmen (1-1, 1-0) weren't bothered by an infield hit, a couple of errors and a fielder's choice in the top of the first that led to a 4-0 deficit.

Steel Valley limited East Allegheny (0-4, 0-1) to three hits and one run over the final six innings behind ace Brandon Donovan.

Donovan picked up the win as he allowed one earned run while scattering four hits and striking out seven in six innings. Patrick O'Malley pitched a perfect seventh to seal the victory.

“Donovan was dominant as the game went on,” Vickers said. “We started to chip away and eventually allowed our bats to save the game, and that's kind of rare for any Steel Valley team.”

Steel Valley collected 12 hits, including two each by Donovan, Derek Morrison, Sam Ligeros and Matt Hoesch. Morrison added three RBI, Donovan two and Ligeros scored three times.

Adam Jacko was a hard-luck loser. He gave up four earned runs in 5 23 innings while working out of jams in the third and fourth innings.

But EA didn't provide much offense, managing only three singles along with a double by Tyler Holby — an all-too-familiar scene for East Allegheny coach Ryan Encapera.

“We've struggled all season to put the ball in play,” Encapera said. “We don't have a batting cage, so this is the only time we see live pitching. We are behind in that respect. We can't get on our field, so it makes it hard. The only time we hit is during games and it shows.”

After spotting EA a 4-0 lead, Steel Valley chipped away with runs in the first, third and fourth. After giving one back in the third, Steel Valley was trailing, 5-3, heading into the fifth when the Ironmen took advantage of a dropped fly ball and a ground ball that bounced off the pitching rubber and 20 feet straight up in the air to knot the score at 5.

“When you give a team extra outs, that's what happens,” Encapera said. “They took advantage of it.”

Encapera's words would ring true in the next inning.

A wind-blown double followed by a throwing error on second baseman Holby and a fielding blunder by left fielder Jordan Loya allowed Steel Valley to scored four unearned runs to put the game away.

Morrison did come through with a clutch two-out, two-RBI single, but most of the damage was done by EA miscues.

“We have to win these games,” Vickers said. “It would be nice to squeak one out against Greensburg Central Catholic, but you want to create separation between yourself and what is considered the middle of the pack.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib

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