Serra's flurry of errors hands PIAA berth to California
Don Hartman didn't want any part of the game, and neither did Brian Dzurenda.
Two of the most successful Class A programs in the WPIAL are used to sitting at the adult table this time of year, not the kids' table.
But California and Serra Catholic found themselves in unfamiliar territory Wednesday: In the Class A consolation game at Ross Memorial Park —footsteps away from Consol Energy Park, where the championship game between OLSH and Western Beaver was being played.
“Playing here is like being in Kiddieland and looking over at the stinkin' Thunderbolt,” Hartman said. “It's not fun.”
California capitalized on four Serra errors that led to five unearned runs, and the Trojans qualified for the state playoffs for the third time in four years with a 10-6 consolation-game win at W&J.
“You can't beat good teams or bad teams when you give them charity runs,” Dzurenda said. “We handed it to them on a silver platter, and let's be honest: They capitalized on them.”
Shortstop Brandon Coddington's three errors helped Cal (18-5) race to a 6-3 lead by the fourth inning. The advantage would grow to 10-3 before Serra (18-3) rallied for three runs in the seventh.
Even though the Eagles would collect 11 hits off starter Brian Fisher and reliever Louden Conte, they could never overcome the early deficit they dug for themselves.
“There really is no explanation,” Dzurenda said. “Sometimes it happens. That's baseball.”
Fisher picked up the win for Cal. The left-hander went six innings, scattering eight hits and three runs. Fisher gave up two hits and no runs in five innings in Cal's 4-1 loss to Serra back in March.
“He is a left-handed pitcher, and lefties are kind of golden in baseball,” Hartman said. “He hasn't given a reason not to start him. He is a big, strong kid who can bounce back on a couple days' rest.”
Chad Hazaga took his first loss of the season despite pitching well. Hazaga gave up three hits and two earned runs over 3 1⁄3 innings before giving way to Wayne Hydak.
“I wanted to get five innings out of him then come back with Wayne for two,” Dzurenda said. “I think we did well offensively, but when you get down early like that, it takes the aggressiveness out of game.”
Jake Columbus' triple just inside the right-field foul line, followed by an Aaron Previsky's RBI groundout, staked Cal to a first-inning 2-0 lead.
Serra answered with a two-run single by Zach Quattrone to knot the score at 2-2 before the unearned runs started to pile up.
Two Coddington errors in a span of three batters in the third scored two more to make it 4-2. Serra added a run in the third to make it 4-3 before another Coddington error in the fourth helped the Trojans pad the lead to 6-2.
Catcher Dylan Kugler's throwing error in the fifth added yet another unearned run for Cal.
“That was the name of the game,” Dzurenda said of the errors. “We couldn't have practiced anymore, we couldn't have prepared anymore. We just have to accept what happened on the field. That is the approach we've taken for 14 years, and that's the approach we will continue to take. They were just better than us today.”
Serra, who advanced to three straight PIAA title games in a row from 2009-11, missed out on the state tournament for the second year in a row.