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Trojans nip Hounds in 9th inning

Bob Kucmeroski / For The Valley Independent
Monessen's Justice Rawlins fires a pitch against California.

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Friday, March 28, 2014, 12:26 a.m.

California baseball coach Nick Damico hopes a lesson was learned in Thursday's come-from-behind win over visiting Monessen.

Damico said the 7-6 nine-inning contest was a game the Trojans (3-0) deserved to lose and the Greyhounds (0-2) deserved to win.

“It definitely wasn't easy. They out-pitched us, out-hit us and I think they played better defense than us,” Damico said after the Trojans won on three walks and a hit batsman in the bottom of the ninth.

“This is good for us because I think we believe we are better than we really are,” Damico said. “We scratched and clawed back and found a way to win the game. We showed a lot of heart and pride in the bottom of the seventh inning. But I hope this wakes up our team. We have to get back to the basics.”

The Greyhounds had a 6-4 lead going into the bottom of the seventh when Cal tied the game on an RBI single by Casey Zajicek and a run that came across on a force out at second.

The Trojans pulled the game out in the ninth without a hit as freshman reliever Justice Rice hit a batter and walked three, including Louden Conte with two outs and the bases loaded.

“I will take the blame for that,” said Monessen coach Bill Matush. “Justice is only a freshman and that was a heck of a situation I put him into in extra innings against California, but that was pretty much what we were left with.

“I probably asked a little too much of a young freshman pitcher in that spot.”

Monessen was trailing 3-0 going into the fourth as Cal pitcher Garitt Woodburn was breezing along on a one-hitter.

However, in the fourth, Monessen lit Woodburn up for four runs on four hits, including RBI doubles by Tyler Shash and Justice Rawlins sandwiched around a two-run double by Josh Kucmeroski.

Monessen upped the lead to 6-4 when Rawlins hit a home run off reliever Josh Luko in the top of the seventh.

That set the stage for the Trojans' heroics in the bottom of the seventh.

“It was a really good game to be involved in,” said Matush. “I said before the season that I thought our kids could play with anyone and I think this game shows it. We are capable of playing this kind of baseball.”

Rawlins went seven innings and gave up six runs on nine hits with nine strikeouts.

“I thought he pitched a heck of a game against us,” Damico said of Rawlins.

Luko swung the big bat for the Trojans, getting five hits (four singles and a double) while Conte had a double and single.

For Monessen, Rawlins had a double to go with his homer while Shash and Kucmeroski each had a double and single.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or

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