North Allegheny makes early lead stand up in win over Hempfield
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A first-inning home run by North Allegheny's Matt Waugaman dashed any thoughts that the newly crowned WPIAL champion might stumble.
“You could tell everyone was focused,” said Waugaman, whose blast sparked a three-run inning for North Allegheny in Monday's 3-1 first-round victory over Hempfield in the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs.
“We felt like we were going to win the game in the first inning,” said the first baseman, whose two-run homer cleared the right-field fence at Shaler's Matulevic Field.
Three runs were enough for NA starter Jason Monpar, who allowed three hits and struck out 10. The junior right-hander had earned the final two outs Wednesday to clinch the WPIAL title.
Transitioning from one playoff run to another run could have been a challenge for the Tigers, NA coach Andy Maddix said, just five days removed from winning a championship over section rival Seneca Valley.
Monday's strong start certainly helped them. The Tigers had three hits, a walk and sent seven to the plate in their first at bat. James Meeker singled and scored on Waugaman's homer to right-center. Jimmy Divosevic then doubled and scored after two wild pitches.
“We put on our bulletin board: ‘Refocus,' ” Maddix said, “because it's tough to be able to refocus for this first round. We knew Hempfield was going to be a really good opponent. I'm proud of the way that we came out in the first inning.”
A rematch with Seneca Valley awaits North Allegheny (21-4) in Thursday's quarterfinals; Seneca Valley (19-4) beat District 9 champ DuBois, 13-6.
Hempfield (20-5) was making its first PIAA appearance. The run was cut short by Hempfield's third close loss to NA, joining a 3-0 loss in the WPIAL semifinals and a 3-0 defeat April 20.
“They beat us fair and square,” Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard said. “Three times now, three close games, they played just a little bit better. That's nothing to be ashamed of.”
Hempfield didn't allow a run after the first, but it couldn't overcome NA's three-run lead. Senior right-hander Zack Martinelli allowed six hits in 42⁄3 innings, with one strikeout and two walks. Tyler Tubbs replaced him with two outs in the fifth.
“Zack didn't have his best stuff,” Buzzard said. “We could see that from the first couple pitches, but he was going to battle. He kept us in it. We had chances but couldn't get it done.”
In the second, Hempfield had two runners on with no outs but failed to score. A leadoff double by Tyler Hensler in the third led to the Spartans' lone run. Brian Tomajko, running for the catcher, scored on a wild pitch.
NA's Monpar allowed just one extra-base hit and retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced.
“He was fantastic,” Maddix said, “but he's been fantastic all year. We've been very blessed to have Mitch (Machi, who started the championship,) and Jason as our one-and-two guys. They really held us strong all year, and today was a good example of that.”
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.
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