South Park edges Keystone Oaks in semifinals
South Park pitcher Randy Dobnak and his Keystone Oaks counterpart Jared Skolnicki used dominant performances to add some heat to an already sweltering afternoon.
The starters turned Tuesday's WPIAL Class AAA semifinal at Upper St. Clair's Boyce-Mayview Recreation Complex into a pitchers' duel that top-seeded South Park won, 1-0, to remain unbeaten and advance to next week's title game.
Dobnak shut down the Golden Eagles (17-5) for four innings, conceding just one hit and two walks while striking out eight.
Coach Steve Bucci lifted him in the fifth to give Keystone Oaks hitters another look on the mound but praised the senior's work with both his fastball and off-speed pitches.
“Everything was working,” Dobnak said. “I was hitting my spots, and I've got to give it to my catcher for blocking those balls out there in the dirt.”
Dobnak credited his ability to get first-pitch strikes with his curveball for keeping the Golden Eagles off balance until Jake Bywalski relieved him after four frames. Bywalski combined with Nick Yobbi — who notched the save — for three scoreless innings to seal the victory for the Eagles (23-0).
Skolnicki, who entered the game 8-0 this season, was almost as good. Though the first-inning run he gave up on an RBI single by Yobbi proved to be the difference, he yielded just two hits and a walk while striking out 11 in six innings.
“He was outstanding, as usual,” KO coach Scott Crimone said. “We have confidence he can beat anybody when he's on the mound.”
Both coach and player are hopeful they'll get another shot at South Park in the PIAA playoffs provided they earn a third-place finish with a win in the consolation final next week against West Allegheny, which lost to Hopewell in Tuesday's other semifinal.
And Skolnicki, despite Tuesday's loss, is confident in his team's chances if there is a rematch, even if the Eagles still boast an unblemished record.
“I've got to give credit to South Park. They're undefeated for a reason,” Skolnicki said. “I think if we played them 10 times, we might win five or six, maybe. I think we're two evenly matched teams.”
But while the Golden Eagles will be playing to stay alive next week, South Park will be looking to finish an unbeaten WPIAL season with a title when it faces second-seeded Hopewell at Consol Energy Field. The date and time has yet to be determined.
Bucci said the Eagles will work on jump-starting their offense after it was held in check for most of the win.
“Preparation and all these things have been happening for us all year,” Bucci said. “We've just got to take the next game.”
Adam Bittner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.