Riverview baseball falls to California in windy Class A quarterfinal
The wild winds of West Mifflin helped do in the Riverview Raiders on Wednesday afternoon.
Seven balls hit high into the air by California players caught a hilltop gust and was one of the factors in a 6-4 Trojans victory in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal.
Nine walks by Riverview's Anthony Malky and some clutch hits resulted in a trip to the semifinals for California (17-4), which will play OLSH, a 5-1 winner over Union, next week.
Third-seeded Riverview saw its season come to a disappointing end at 15-3.
“It's tough, real tough to accept this loss and move on,” Raiders coach Rich Griser said. “This is our most disappointing loss since the 2010 playoffs to Burrell. It was hard after the game to say anything to make the kids feel better.”
Winds gusting from the first base side toward left and center fields at West Mifflin's new stadium, resulted in three California doubles that sailed over the head of Riverview outfielders. On three other occasions, foul pops gave Raiders defenders problems, prolonging Trojans at bats.
“If you look at that (American) flag, it felt like we were playing at Candlestick Park or Chicago,” California coach Don Hartman said. “A couple of those balls almost blew fair. It was brutal. The baseball gods made the wind blow our way today.”
Conversely, in the Riverview fourth, Nick DiBucci opened with a single and Malky hit a high popup on the right side of the California infield. The ball dropped between three fielders, but DiBucci was forced at second.
The next batter, Jake Paradise, got one in the wind for a double, but it was California's day.
The Trojans sent 13 batters to the plate in the first two innings but scored just three runs.
Two California runners were caught off third by Paradise on failed squeeze bunt attempts.
“I live by the sword, I die by the sword,” Hartman said. “And the sword about got me in the first inning.”
With Malky clearly uncomfortable on the mound with three early walks and falling behind batters, Hartman said he was trying to maximize his team's chances.
“I haven't talked to Anthony about it,” Griser said concerning Malky's woes. “Sometimes you can't get adjusted. Sometimes with the emotions of the game, it's hard to clarify what's going on.”
Five of California's six runs were scored by players who had walked.
Malky, however, did enough to keep the Raiders in the game. Riverview tied it in the fourth on Jason Anthony's single and bases-loaded walks to Cole Quinio and Sam Gosnowski.
California took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth when, with two outs, right fielder Mike Churchill and DiBucci collided on a pop in shallow right field, allowing Joe DiFranco to score. Churchill recovered and threw out at Jake Columbus at third.
With the Trojans in front, 6-3, in the seventh, Malky walked and scored on Paradise's triple.
Hartman brought in freshman reliever Loudon Conte, who retired Anthony to end the game.
George Guido is a freelancer writer.