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Rawlins, Hounds perfect in 12-0 win

| Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 12:11 a.m.
Bob Kucmeroski / For The Valley Independent
Monessen's Justice Rawlins fires a pitch during his 5-inning perfect game against Clairton.

Monessen's Justice Rawlins is off to quite the start in his senior season.

In the Greyhounds' 12-0 five-inning victory over Section 2-A rival Clairton (1-3, 1-2), the California University baseball and football recruit pitched a perfect game for his third win of the season and clubbed his fourth home run as Monessen improved to 3-5 overall and 2-2 in the section.

“He was throwing strikes today, which was the main thing,” Monessen coach Bill Matush said. “He's actually struggled with his command at times this year, but today he was on point, getting ahead of the count and using his fastball well. His velocity was higher today than it had been all year, which is a great sign for us.”

Rawlins cruised through the five innings of work, striking out 13 of the 15 batters he faced and going to a three-ball count just twice. But the perfect game was nearly ruined early, when with one out in the second Clairton's Tyler Blue launched a ball into the right center field gap. Right fielder Jordan Keleman tracked the ball down and made a tremendous running grab at the warning track.

“Our right fielder made a spectacular play there that ended up saving the perfect game,” Matush said. “It's easy to get bored out there when your pitcher is striking everyone out, but to stay focused like that and make that type of play was pretty special.”

“They got the ball in play twice and the one deep shot, that was completely my fault,” Rawlins said. “I let off on the pitch and left it high and he drove it, but I knew my teammates had my back and they made a great play. But you know, it's a learning process. I need to do a better job of keeping the ball down at times.”

With Rawlins mowing down the Bears on the mound, the Greyhounds got all the offense they needed in the first inning. Tyler Shash led off the game with a triple to deep right center and scored when Josh Kucmeroski tripled to deep center. Kucmeroski would score when Rawlins reached on an error, and Rawlins' courtesy runner scored two batters later on a balk to stake Monessen to a 3-0 lead.

Monessen scored three more in the second when Kucmeroski singled home Shash and Rawlins drilled an easy inside-the-park home run to left center.

“I'm just trying to keep seeing the ball and drive it,” Rawlins said. “Luckily Josh was on second and I had the opportunity to drive him in. I was just trying to keep it rolling.”

The Greyhounds then sent 11 batters to the plate in the third and scored five runs on three Clairton errors and a two-run Luke Doptis double.

Rawlins finished the game with four runs batted in, while Kucmeroski drove in three and scored three times.

“We hit the ball well today,” Matush said. “Thats what we need to do. When we hit the ball like that we're a good team. Pitching and defensively we're still working things out, finding people at different positions. It's starting to come together.”

Donnie Tasser is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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