Yough baseball team scores early, advances
Yough scored three runs in the third inning without hitting the ball out of the infield.
But it proved to be enough as the Cougars held off a late Knoch rally and defeated the Knights, 3-2, Saturday afternoon in a Class AAA preliminary round baseball playoff game at Fox Chapel High School.
It was the first playoff victory for the Cougars (10-10) since 2003. Yough plays No. 1-seeded South Park ( 20-0) at 4:30 p.m. Monday at West Mifflin High School.
Knoch finished its season at 9-10. Saturday's game was originally scheduled for Shaler's Matulevic Field, but wet grounds forced the move to the artificial turf at Fox Chapel.
Scoreless in the bottom of the third, Eric Borkovich led off with an infield single, and Ben Sabijak reached on a fielder's choice when Borkovich beat the attempted force play at second base.
After a bunt moved the runners up, Luke Spisak hit into a force play at third, scoring Borkovich. A throwing error allowed Josh Sterner to come around.
An infield single and another throwing error allowed Spisak to score, making it 3-0 Yough.
“One bad inning,” Knoch coach George Bradley said. “We knew they were aggressive, that's the scouting reports we had. When you dig yourself a hole, it's more difficult to come back.”
“We had a couple of clutch hits,” Yough coach Jeremy Zufall said. “We hit at eight-thirty this morning. Maybe we used up all our hits there.”
Knoch answered with a run in the top of the fourth. Andy Fritz led off with a double, and pinch runner Jordan Hickey scored on a groundout to second.
Zufall's desire to have all of his pitchers ready for South Park nearly backfired. Starter Spisak pitched the first three innings and gave way to C.J. Vargo for the next three.
In the seventh with the Cougars leading, 3-1, catcher Tucker Slatosky was sent to the mound to try and record the save. But Slatosky walked the first two, and Zufall had to bring back Vargo to pitch. Vargo then walked Chase Voltz to load the bases with none out.
Hunter Balliet hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Chris Law. But the runner at second, Zack Junk, broke for third to try a get the tying run 90 feet away. Slatosky, who had returned to catch, threw out Junk for the second out.
“I not going to yell at a kid for that. He was just trying to win the game,” Bradley said. “It's not the time to do that, but it happens, and I know Zach feels bad.”
George Guido is a freelance writer.