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Penn-Trafford clinches playoff berth by topping Latrobe

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:48 p.m.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Winning pitcher Tyler Smith brings his team together for a cheer after they beat Latrobe, 6-0, to earn a spot in the playoffs Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at Penn-Trafford.

An elbow injury kept Tyler Smith from pitching in the 2013 WPIAL playoffs. Penn-Trafford's ace didn't let Latrobe spoil a trip for him this season.

Smith pitched a four-hit shutout, striking out 12 batters to lead Class AAAA No. 4 Penn-Trafford (15-4, 8-4) to a 6-0 victory over Latrobe (9-9, 8-4) in a winner-take-all matchup for the third and final playoff spot in Section 2.

“It was just (about) leaving it all out on the field,” Smith said. “If you're going to lose, lose with heart and class and lose with everything that you have out there. Thank God that didn't happen, but it was one of those games where we all had to come out and play 110 percent, and we did.”

Penn-Trafford coach Ron Evans held Smith out of Monday's game against Norwin, opting to save him for Latrobe.

The plan worked well as Smith struck out five of the first six batters he faced and nine in the first four innings.

“It's one of those games where you don't really remember much of it,” Smith said. “There's certain games I'll have where I just go off into Neverland, and this was one of those games. But it just felt amazing.”

Penn-Trafford finished as the third-place team in Section 2, behind Hempfield (15-3, 11-1) and Norwin (13-3, 9-3). Latrobe, which split meetings with Penn-Trafford and Norwin, just missed out on its first playoff appearance since 2011.

“I can't say enough about these guys,” Latrobe coach Matt Basciano said. “It stings right now not going to the playoffs, but (with) the adversity we faced this year, it speaks volumes of these guys the way they battled, the way they fought (and) clawed their way back in it. They deserve a ton of credit.”

Smith, a Canisius recruit, outdueled fellow Division I pitcher Josh Keefe (Coastal Carolina), who gave up five runs in four-plus innings.

Penn-Trafford took control of the game early. After Smith struck out the side in the top of the first, the Warriors plated two runs in the bottom half.

Luke Smeltz drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on Mark Merlino's single then stole third and scored when catcher Mike Rodgers' throw sailed into left field. Josh Brammell's two-out single drove in Merlino.

A similar situation allowed Penn-Trafford to widen its lead to 3-0 in the third. Scott Koscho led off with a walk, and Jake Morain moved to second and third on a pair of wild pitches and scored on Chris Common's two-out single.

Koscho had a run-scoring double in the fifth and Smith a pair of run-scoring singles in the fifth and sixth innings. The Warriors finished with eight hits, but they took advantage of eight wild pitches and three errors.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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