North Catholic deals Riverview 3rd loss in last 4 games
Rain continued to fall and the air temperature dropped into the 40s Monday afternoon as Riverview baseball coach Rich Griser assessed his team's loss to North Catholic, but the Raiders' longtime coach never attempted to blame poor weather or the unfamiliar synthetic playing surface at Kelly Automotive Park in Butler for any of his team's miscues.
Sporadically sloppy play, Griser explained, has been a nagging problem this season for the Raiders, rain or shine.
An unearned run in the bottom of the first inning gave Section 4-A frontrunner North Catholic a lead it never relinquished in its 5-3 win over Riverview (9-3, 4-3), which has lost three of its last four games. The Trojans (6-6, 6-1) put together their strongest inning of offense in the third, when they scored four runs with the help of two Riverview errors.
“We're our own worst enemy right now,” said Riverview coach Rich Griser, whose team finished with six errors. “We have a couple players who look fine in practice, but then they get in the games, and I don't know if it's stage fright or whatever.”
North Catholic answered Riverview's errors with gaffes of its own. Two errant throws to first base in the top of the fourth allowed Jason Anthony and Dom Conte to score and cut North Catholic's lead to 5-2.
Anthony scored Riverview's other run in the top of the sixth when he singled, stole second and third and then scored on Shayne Slebrich's grounder single back up the middle.
While Riverview's infielders struggled to eliminate errors, its outfield delivered a few highlights that kept hopes of a comeback alive.
In the bottom of the fourth, Slebrich collected a ground ball single in left field and fired a throw home, where catcher Jake Paradise placed a tag on North Catholic's Nick Tunstall, who tried to score from second.
Anthony kept momentum on Riverview's side in the sixth inning as he leapt on the run to snag a deep fly ball in center field — had he failed to make a catch, the ball likely would have rolled to the deepest point of the park, which sits 425 feet away from home plate.
At the plate, Anthony went 2 for 3 with a double. He also walked to load the bases in the top of the seventh inning, but North Catholic's Jake Matschner, who relieved Tunstall on the mound prior to Anthony's at-bat, escaped the jam with a strikeout.
“I don't really think it's a mental thing,” Anthony said of the Raiders' struggles. “I think it's more of a physical thing for us right now. We need to swing the bat well, make routine plays and just get outs.”
Until Anthony's double in the fourth inning, Riverview failed to get a hit off of Tunstall, who was one out short of a complete game.
While the Raiders try to return to their winning ways, North Catholic aims to stay ahead of the section's crowded pack — Leechburg (2-3, 2-3), St. Joseph (5-3, 3-2) and Springdale (4-6, 4-2) each pulled off surprising wins over a team ahead of them in the standings this season.
“Overall, it's been a crazy year, and that's why I'm not taking anything for granted for the rest of the season,” said North Catholic coach Max Zingle, whose Trojans lost 2-1 at Leechburg on April 22. “In the past, this section has typically been one or two teams at the top. With everybody losing to everybody, I think it's a sign that the talent level is way more comparable top to bottom this year.”