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Charleroi falls with playoffs on the line

| Friday, May 9, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

Charleroi entered Thursday's suspended Section 2 AA game trailing Brownsville 3-0 in the third inning with a playoff spot on the line.

Despite outplaying the Falcons for the remaining five innings, the Cougars could not push across a run. With Chartiers-Houston beating Fort Cherry, Charleroi's season comes to an end.

“It's not really how we wanted it to end, but we couldn't get the big hit when we needed it,” Charleroi coach Luke Mollis said. “We had opportunities; they gave us chances. But we left entirely too many runners out there today, and you can't win like that.”

The Cougars (9-8, 8-6) didn't lose due to a lack of scoring chances. Charleroi put a runner on base in all five innings against the Falcons (13-5, 11-3) and had multiple baserunners in four of those innings. In total, the Cougars left nine runners on base and went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Charleroi appeared to score in the top of the third, but the run was waved off by the home plate umpire. Jake Watkins and Matt Freeman walked against Brownsville pitcher Cole Novotney, and Matt Szerszen singled to center. It appeared Watkins would score easily from second, but Freeman was thrown out at third and the umpires ruled the tag was applied before Watkins crossed the plate.

“I don't know what happened there (in the third),” Mollis said. “I didn't see it. I guess he just slowed up coming across the plate. That was our best chance to score, but we still needed to get three, not just one.”

In the fourth, the Cougars loaded the bases with nobody out, but Novotney was able to induce a double-play grounder and a pop up to end the inning. In the fifth, an error, single and wild pitch put Watkins and Josh Mavilla on second and third with none out, but Novotney was again able to pitch out of the jam, ending the inning when shortstop Corey Lent fielded a ball that deflected off the third baseman's glove and threw out Gunnar Riley at first.

The Falcons brought Ryan Novotney in to pitch in the sixth, and in the seventh the Cougars threatened yet again, putting runners on first and second with one out. But, like his brother, Novotney was able to retire the next two Cougar batters without giving up a run.

Charleroi's Josiah Fisher pitched all five innings, surrendering only two hits, striking out five andwalking none. Mavilla, Szerszen, Freeman and Zach Nabozny each picked up one hit for the Cougars.

“I can't really call a freshman our ace with how Zach (Nabozny) has pitched for us this year, but Josiah has done a tremendous job and has only gotten better as the season progressed,” Mollis said. “The first two innings the other day, we couldn't field a ground ball. They scored three runs without getting a hit. But today we fielded well and Josiah pitched a great game. It's a shame we weren't able to push a couple across and make things interesting.”

On the brighter side for Charleroi, the Cougars only lose four seniors and return 10 players who saw extensive playing time this season.

“We have a real strong core coming back,” Mollis said. “And some good kids coming up I think. But these seniors will be missed. The four of them contributed a lot the past few years, and they will be tough to replace.”

Donnie Tasser is a freelance writer.

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