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West Mifflin baseball bounces South Fayette in postponed game

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:45 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
West Mifflin catcher Dan Howard hoists pitcher Zach Fodor after the Titans defeated South Fayette in a first-round WPIAL Class AAA playoff game Wednesday, May 14, 2014, at Burkett Complex in Robinson.

There's no denying A.J. Olasz takes West Mifflin to another level — a championship-caliber level.

Without him — and West Mifflin has been without its ace left-hander (4-0, 0.78 ERA, 42 strikeouts in 23 innings) for a month and will be without him for the duration of the postseason — the Titans have had to find different ways to win.

Rookie coach Jeff Smith never thought “different” would involve three venues in three days, a pair of lighting delays and 18 hours to complete the second inning of a WPIAL Class AAA first-round playoff game against South Fayette.

“So be it,” Smith said.

West Mifflin put up three quick runs when it resumed Tuesday's game 25 miles and 18 hours from where it started and won its first playoff game in four years with an 8-3 victory at Burkett Complex.

“It was a very frustrating couple of days,” Smith said. “I don't know why we were scheduled for Upper St. Clair (on Monday) in the first place when they canceled it at 10 in the morning. Then there was the weather (on Tuesday), and it was tough because the kids had (advanced placement) tests so we couldn't get them out of school early.

“There was a lot on their minds, but they really pulled together and did a good job.”

The Titans (13-4) will play Elizabeth Forward (12-7) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Woodland Hills. The Section 4 rivals split their season series with each winning on the road.

Smith would love to have Olasz, a Cincinnati recruit, available to pitch the next three games to lead them to their first championship game, but a shoulder injury that happened when he slid into third base last month will prevent that.

“It makes it very hard, I'll tell you,” Smith said. “It makes us an average team without him pitching.

“We still have a very good team with some very good pitchers. I have faith in them.”

Smith had plenty of faith in Zach Salmon to bring him back on less than a day of rest. Salmon was perfect through six batters Tuesday and retired the first three Wednesday before hitting a wall.

Salmon walked a pair in the fourth before giving up a double to Justin Foreman to score two. However, West Mifflin had provided Salmon with a 5-0 advantage.

“You can tell he wasn't as sharp,” Smith said. “But you have to ride your best pitcher, and he's our best pitcher.

“We were going to give him the ball until he couldn't get them out anymore.”

Dom Robinson and Zach Fodor pitched the final three innings in relief and didn't allow a run.

“If you don't throw strikes, can't make plays in the field and can't hit the ball, you can't win the game,” said South Fayette coach James Barton, whose team managed only four hits while giving up four unearned runs.

“Postponing games and the conditions didn't affect them.”

West Mifflin chased starter Hayden Orler six batters into Wednesday's game as the Titans put together four hits including a bases-loaded single by Olasz to score a pair.

“I think (Orler) was kind of sharp on Tuesday, but (Wednesday), I think that layoff hurt him,” Barton said. “But the bottom line is that you have to make plays. You can't make mistakes.”

Ryan Kandsberger and Olasz had three hits each, and Fodor and Dan Howard added two. The top four batters in West Mifflin's lineup — all of whom are seniors — went 10 for 16 with six RBIs.

“This group of seniors worked hard to get here, and they finally get to reap some of the rewards,” Smith said.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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