North Allegheny swings past rival Seneca Valley in extra innings
When North Allegheny reliever James Meeker took the mound, there was one out in the second inning and Seneca Valley already had two runs.
Meeker left the mound nine innings later, and the Raiders still had only those same two runs.
“I was just trying to keep it close and give us a chance,” said Meeker, who held Seneca Valley scoreless for the final 26 outs of Friday's 4-2 quarterfinal victory in the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs at Pullman Park in Butler.
North Allegheny's chance came in the 10th, when Brandon Bergstrom drew a one-out walk and scored on Matt Waugaman's two-out double. Waugaman later scored to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead.
“James came in and couldn't have done better,” NA coach Andy Maddix said. “That's a testament to the depth of our pitching staff.”
Seneca Valley's pitching was equally good. Connor Coward struck out 13 in eight innings.
“He was awesome,” Seneca Valley coach Eric Semega said. “You couldn't expect anything more from him.”
This was the fourth matchup between the section rivals this season, and all four were decided by two runs or fewer. Seneca Valley (19-5) won both regular-season matchups with 3-2 scores. North Allegheny (22-4) won, 4-2, in the WPIAL championship.
Once again, the first team to three runs won.
“You look at the box scores, and it's so close,” Semega said.
“Baseball in our section is awesome,” Maddix said, “but it may take years off my life.”
In Monday's semifinals, North Allegheny will face District 3 champion Lower Dauphin at 4 p.m. in Somerset. Lower Dauphin advanced with a five-inning victory over State College, 12-1.
NA junior Mitch Machi, who won the WPIAL title game, allowed two hits, two runs and lasted only four outs in Friday's start. Seneca Valley built a 2-0 lead in the first when Gianpaul Gonzalez walked, Sam Fragale hit an RBI triple and Carson Kessler added a run-scoring groundout.
In came Meeker, who allowed no walks and five hits, all singles.
“We've been blessed all year to have pitching depth,” Maddix said.
Typically the team's third starter, Meeker threw a five-inning perfect game in the regular season.
“This was a more impressive accomplishment than his perfect game, which is saying something,” Maddix said. “Seneca Valley is a great team, and the moment was the state quarterfinal.”
While scoring the winning run, Bergstrom collided with Seneca Valley catcher Brad Gresock, who had moved up the third-base line to field the throw. Gresock sustained a concussion and left the field.
“There's not much the runner can do,” Semega said, “and there's not much the catcher can do, either.”
Bergstrom reached base four times Friday, and three times he scored on a hit by Waugaman, including once each in the fourth and sixth.
“It's real nice for Matt to get hot at the right time,” Maddix said. “He struggled in the WPIAL playoffs and was doubting himself. Now, we're kind of riding on his shoulders.”