Reliever Laird saves day as Apollo-Ridge nears playoff berth
TribLIVE Sports Videos
For six innings, Apollo-Ridge was cruising toward control of the Section 3-AA baseball playoff chase. In the seventh, that cruise became a bumpy ride.
Burrell rallied with six runs in the top of the seventh, but Apollo-Ridge reliever Austin Laird retired the only two hitters he faced and left the tying runner on third to give the Vikings the win, 9-8, on Monday.
The win gives Apollo-Ridge (5-7, 5-5) a season sweep over Burrell (8-6, 5-5) and puts the Vikings in the driver's seat heading toward the playoffs.
Apollo-Ridge will reach the playoffs by winning its last two, while the sweep of Burrell and an earlier win over Ford City means the Vikings also qualify if they tie for third at 6-6.
“I think we've had the right coaching and the right attitude all year to do whatever we want,” Apollo-Ridge pitcher Mike Percic said. “We have the talent, but we have to come out tomorrow (against West Shamokin) knowing we don't have a playoff spot yet, and we need to get there.”
Percic played the biggest role in the Vikings' win by throwing 6 1⁄3 innings before tiring in the seventh. He also finished with four RBIs with a two-run single in the third and a two-run homer in the fourth that gave Apollo-Ridge a 9-1 lead.
After giving up a first-inning solo home run to Burrell's Cody Wolfe, Percic retired 14 of the next 17, and two players reached base on errors. But the Bucs began to figure out Percic in the sixth when Ryan Sowol cut the lead to 9-2 with an RBI double.
“Michael threw a whale of a game. He's one of those kids that's ready to play as soon as he steps on the field, whether he's pitching or playing third,” said Apollo-Ridge assistant coach Eric Andring, who was in charge while head coach Joe Rice was away tending to a family matter.
Burrell's rally in the seventh started when Justin Fleck and Shawn Lamberton singled and Corey Arabia was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Burrell's first two runs of the inning were scored on Apollo-Ridge errors, and Sowol hit an RBI single to cut the lead to 9-5.
Percic recorded a strikeout for the inning's first out, but J.R. Andrejcik drove a double into the left-center field gap to clear the bases, which cut the lead to 9-8 and ended Percic's outing.
Laird stepped onto the mound and ended the game with a two-out save. Laird fielded a groundout by Dustin Maloney while Andrejcik advanced to third, and he struck out Fleck for the final out.
“By the seventh, my arm was pretty gone. Usually, I can tough it out, but they had my number in the seventh,” Percic said. “I couldn't ask for any better person to have come in and finish the game for me.”
Apollo-Ridge built its early lead with contributions from the whole lineup. Mitch Johnston, Zach Weinel and Dylan Wingard had RBI hits, and six different Vikings scored runs.
Despite the final-inning rally, Burrell is left facing a playoff scenario where it must keep winning and hope for at least one Apollo-Ridge loss.
“When you kick the ball around as much as we did early, we were lucky to be in that situation,” Burrell coach Mark Spohn said. “We've got to play better.”
Apollo-Ridge, on the other hand, finds itself on the cusp of its first baseball playoff berth since the school's run of strong teams in the early-to-mid 1990s.
Perhaps more surprisingly, the Vikings have done it with just three seniors on the field and a fourth sitting out with an injury.
“In the past, we've let one error roll into another and let things get away. These kids didn't compound errors. They looked out for each other, and they came out with a win,” Andring said.
“I came in as a coach about a week before the season started for these seniors' freshman year. There's nothing I want more for those kids than to see them get into the playoffs and get a chance to play a playoff game.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates acquire pitcher Blanton from Royals for cash
- Peduto blasts Wolf’s plan to borrow $3B to shore up pensions
- Inside the Steelers: Williams’ quickness out of backfield evident in drills
- Starkey: Garoppolo baffles Steelers
- McCutchen, Pirates cruise to interleague victory over Twins
- West Liberty pitcher hones skills in South
- Tight ends’ role in Steelers passing game continues to lessen but players remain selfless
- Steelers notebook: LB Dupree sits out backs-on–backers drill
- Vallozzi’s Pittsburgh transfers great fare it’s been known for in the Pittsburgh region to the Steel City
- Pirates notebook: Melancon bails out Watson with extended outing
- Luke Bryan’s country-music charm not outlaw style