Fast start carries No. 10 West Allegheny past Laurel Highlands
West Allegheny baseball coach Bryan Cornell knows the importance of scoring first in a WPIAL playoff game.
The veteran West Allegheny coach couldn't have asked for a better start to Tuesday's Class AAA first-round game against Laurel Highlands at Washington & Jefferson's Ross Memorial Park.
No. 10 West Allegheny (15-4) scored three runs in the top of the first inning and went on to defeat No. 7 Laurel Highlands, 5-3, to advance to the quarterfinals Wednesday against No. 2 Chartiers Valley (16-3).
The game was moved from Monday's first-round site, Mt. Pleasant, after being postponed because of thunderstorms.
West Allegheny, which finished third in Section 1, got RBI hits from Alec Palmer (double), Brandon Pouch and Chasen Claus to grab a 3-0 lead on Laurel Highlands starter Colin McKee.
“That's what we didn't want to happen, for them to jump out quickly,” Laurel Highlands coach Scott DeBerry said. “We had our chances, we just didn't get the big hits, and they were able to put the ball in play.”
Laurel Highlands (16-5) got a run back in the bottom of the inning when Drew DeBerry, the coach's son, opened with a triple and scored on a triple by Teddy Sova.
After Giuseppe Schiano reached on catcher's interference and then swiped second, West Allegheny pitcher Colin Claus struck out Corey Descenzo and Troy Kifer to end the threat.
“Anytime you score first it's big,” Cornell said. “We got some clutch hits in the first inning. Their pitcher was good, but we've faced kids just as good in our section. Our section prepared us for the playoffs.”
Blackhawk, seeded No. 1, and Montour tied for first place in the section.
West Allegheny increased its lead to 5-1 by scoring single tallies in the third and fourth innings. One run scored on a sacrifice fly by Jake Cunningham and the second on one of Laurel Highlands' four errors.
“I thought we were prepared,” DeBerry said. “But it came down to timely hits, and we didn't get many.”
Laurel Highlands scored twice in the fifth inning when Sova singled home DeBerry, and Sova came around to score on a throwing error.
“They're an aggressive team, but when (catcher) Brandon (Pouch) threw out one of their runners it cut down what they liked to do,” Cornell said. “We were worried about Colin in the final inning, but he wanted the ball and shut them down.”
Laurel Highlands had seven hits off Claus, three each by DeBerry (double, two singles) and Sova (triple, double and single). Dom Peroni had a double for the Mustangs.
Palmer, Pouch and Mike Cummings each had doubles for West Allegheny. Pouch was the only Indians' player with two hits. Claus had nine strikeouts and two walks.
McKee calmed down after a shaky start. He allowed eight hits, struck out six and walked four.
“We cut down on our strikeouts,” Cornell said. “We've been struggling with that the past few games.”