South Park shuts out rival TJ to reach WPIAL semifinals
Twice this season, Randy Dobnak beat Thomas Jefferson with his arm.
In the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals Wednesday, the South Park senior did the Jaguars in with his bat.
Dobnak hit a three-run homer in the top of the fifth, and Greg Pantuso added a two-run blast in the sixth as top-seeded South Park (21-0) got past Thomas Jefferson, 6-0, at Burkett Field to advance to the WPIAL semifinals for the first time since making it in Class AA in 2004.
The Eagles will play Keystone Oaks (17-4) in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
“Randy and I had a meeting at third base, and we talked about the situation and what we were going to do,” South Park coach Steve Bucci said.
“We weren't ever going to bunt there … and he hit it good, and that was probably going to be enough.”
That was all Nick Yobbi needed, as the senior right-hander allowed only three hits, walked one, and was never really threatened in his first decision against Thomas Jefferson (13-9).
“I thought all my pitches were working,” Yobbi said. “I had the changeup working for the first time in a while, and I wasn't fighting it, it had good tail on it. The curveball was nice and sharp, and the fastball had a lot of movement on it.”
Yobbi only allowed one base runner — Colton Booher in the second inning — to get into scoring position.
Booher singled and made it to third base with two outs, but Yobbi got out of the situation.
Considering the way Thomas Jefferson surprise starter Braden Flinn was pitching, Yobbi needed to be at his sharpest. The sophomore southpaw was making his first varsity start because TJ threw three of its top pitchers in Monday's 11-inning first-round win against Indiana.
“We just wanted to change it up and keep them off-balance a little bit, and I thought he did a tremendous job,” Thomas Jefferson coach Kevin Gryboski said. “He kept them off-balance for four innings. He gave us an opportunity to win the game, but the sticks weren't swinging.”
For four innings, Flinn breezed through a South Park lineup that has eight starters hitting at least .300 and scored 222 runs in its first 21 games, including 23 in two wins against Thomas Jefferson.
He allowed two hits, struck out one, allowed only one batter to reach second base and did not issue a walk.
That all changed in the fifth when Shane Fetsko reached on an error, Pantuso singled and Dobnak cranked a 1-0 pitch over the left field fence to give South Park a 3-0 lead.
In five-plus innings, Flinn allowed five hits and five runs, three earned, before giving way to Eric Fairman — who was greeted by a two-run homer from Pantuso — in the top of the sixth.
“We had never seen Flinn before and he did a good job. He really did,” Bucci said. “He pitched smart, and eventually we figured him out and that's how it ended up.”