Small ball sends North Allegheny to finals
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The ball rolled only a few feet, but North Allegheny's James Meeker couldn't have been much happier with his first at bat.
“We spent countless hours at practice working on that, trying to become a solid bunting team,” said Meeker, whose first-inning sacrifice keyed the first run in Tuesday's 3-0 semifinal victory over Hempfield in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs at Shaler's Matulevic Field.
Four innings started with North Allegheny's first batter reaching base, and every time, the next hitter laid down a successful sacrifice. Twice, the leadoff batter eventually scored. That selfless small-ball approach has the Tigers in the WPIAL championship for the third time in five seasons.
The roster might lack the star power of past title-winning lineups, but this team has learned to win with teamwork, coach Andy Maddix said.
“Once we figured that out, we really started to play well,” Maddix said. “(We learned) we were better as a team than individually.”
No. 3 Hempfield (19-4) didn't have the chance to match NA's small-ball strategy. The Spartans had eight batters reach base, but seven of them reached with two outs. That included the third and fifth innings, when Hempfield left two on base.
“They were able to get guys on early in the inning, and we kind of scratched at it late,” Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard said. “We had a couple nice chances but didn't get it done.”
Three runs were enough for NA starter Mitch Machi, who earned a 3-0 win over Hempfield April 20 and a 10-0 win in last year's playoffs. The junior allowed two hits, both singles. He struck out two and walked two.
Machi credited his defense
“I'm a pitcher who pitches to contact, and our fielders are impeccable,” he said.
No. 2 North Allegheny (19-4) will face No. 1 Seneca Valley (18-3) either Tuesday or Wednesday at Consol Energy Park in Washington.
Seneca Valley, the two-time defending champion, holds a pair of 3-2 victories over North Allegheny from the regular season. Tuesday's success was inspired by those one-run losses.
“In the long run, perhaps those losses helped us,” Maddix said, “because we realized how important it was for us as a team to execute the little things rather than be individual.”
In the first inning, NA's Brandon Bergstrom walked, advanced on Meeker's bunt and scored on Jimmy Divosevic's single. In the sixth, Meeker singled, moved to second on Matt Waugaman's sacrifice bunt and scored on Justin Dattilo's single. Dattilo later scored on J.T. Zeitler's single.
Hempfield senior Zack Martinelli allowed only five hits — all singles.
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Shazier returns just in time
- Fire at Dollar General in Rostraver under control, dispatchers say
- Script is it: Classic Pitt helmet design to return
- Penguins notebook: Carcillo has no hard feelings after failing to make roster
- NFL notebook: Colts WR Wayne out for Sunday’s game at Steelers
- California University police officer alleges discrimination
- Fayette County woman pleads guilty to trying to kill romantic rival with SUV
- MLB notebook: Rays manager Maddon opts out of contract
- Hit-run motorist in Mt. Lebanon sought
- Blind players battle for chess championship
- 2 dead, including student gunman, after Wash. school shooting