Seneca Valley upsets No. 1 seed Hempfield
Seneca Valley baseball coach Eric Semega knew there was no pressure on his team in the opening round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs on Monday.
That's because the Raiders, the 2013 WPIAL runners-up, dropped three of their last four games and limped into the playoffs seeded No. 16 with a 6-11 record.
They proved anything can happen in the playoffs.
Right fielder Vince Augustine drove in five runs to lead Seneca Valley to a 10-5 upset of No. 1 Hempfield on Friday at West Mifflin.
“All we wanted was a chance to play in the playoffs,” Semega said. “I felt the Class AAAA race was wide open. We came in loose and had nothing to lose. Jumping out to a lead put all the pressure on Hempfield.”
Seneca Valley will play Shaler, which defeated Central Catholic, in the quarterfinals noon Saturday at Fox Chapel.
Augustine had two hits, including a three-run home run in the fourth, as Seneca Valley scored at least one run in the first four innings off Hempfield's Tyler Tubbs.
Seneca Valley (7-11) used its running game in the first inning to grab a 2-0 lead. John Harper walked, stole second and scored on Johnny Brittner's single. Brittner then stole second and scored on Augustine's ground out.
“I could tell in the first inning that they were swinging the bats well and that we needed to score with them,” Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard said. “We had our chances, we just needed a big hit and we didn't get it. We had some good at-bats.”
Hempfield (16-4) tied the score 2-2 in the top of the second when Matt Tarabek, who singled, scored on an error and Joey Hoffner, running for catcher Tyler Hensler, scored on a bases-loaded walk to Dom Mori.
Seneca Valley took the lead for good in the second when catcher John Davis hit a solo home run.
“We battled injuries all season,” Augustine said. “But we had enough experience returning that we knew how to win. We pitched them inside and the pitchers did a good job keeping them off balance, and we were able to play our game offensively.”
Semega replaced starting pitcher Branden Schlick in the third inning with left-hander Troy Martin. He blanked Hempfield into the seventh when he was replaced after a one-out walk.
“We hadn't had a pitcher throw a 1-2-3 inning the last four games,” Semega said. “Troy gave us a solid effort.”
Seneca Valley chased Tubbs after the third inning by scoring four runs on four hits. The Raiders tacked on three more in the fourth inning thanks to Augustine's three-run home run over the center-field fence.
“Tyler didn't have his best game,” Buzzard said. “Seneca Valley swung the bats really well. It took him a couple innings to settle and he fell behind a couple batters and they took advantage of some things.”
Brittner had four hits for the Raiders, the only team from Section 1 to advance.
Martin held Hempfield to one run over 4 1⁄3 innings to earn the victory. He allowed two hits and two walks.
Tarabek had two hits, including a three-run home run in the top of the seventh for Hempfield. Jeff Livengood also had two hits.