Slick defense, four-hitter lift Deer Lakes past South Side Beaver
By the time Deer Lakes senior shortstop Todd Coleman went deep into the hole and fielded a two-out grounder in the bottom of the seventh inning, little doubt existed among his teammates or the South Side Beaver players that he would make the long throw to first in time to clinch the quarterfinal-round game for the Lancers.
Defensive gems abounded during fifth-seeded Deer Lakes' 2-0 win over the No. 4 Rams (16-3) on Saturday night at Burkett Complex in Robinson Township.
Sure-handed fielding complemented the steadfast pitching of sophomore Ryan Petrone, who threw a four-hitter.
Deer Lakes (16-4), a quarterfinal-round winner for the second straight season, will play No. 9 Seton-La Salle (14-5) on Wednesday in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals at a time and site to be determined.
“I was kind of nervous, but it wasn't that bad,” Petrone said. “I'm just happy to get out of here with a win against a great team like that.
“It just helps that I have an unbelievable defense behind me. We have an unbelievable catcher, and it's just all-around unbelievable at outfield, infield.”
Petrone, in his varsity postseason debut, allowed a leadoff single to center field in the bottom of the first. He then retired the next 10 batters.
He finished with six strikeouts and two walks.
“As a sophomore, he didn't seem nervous at all,” senior catcher Matt Olesnevich said. “He treated it like any other game. He threw the same as always.”
Petrone contributed two of Deer Lakes' finer fielding plays. He snatched a sharp comebacker off the ground and calmly got the ball to first in the bottom of the third inning. Then to end the fourth, he caught a line drive that initially hit him in the thigh before it fell toward the dirt.
Immediately after the line-drive bobble-catch, Petrone showed the ball to the umpire and spiked it to the ground. As he left the mound, teammates and coach Jon Pedrosky mobbed him.
They had no idea how many more chances they would get to celebrate defensive highlights.
In the bottom of the fifth, senior right fielder Dom Chiera charged a line-drive single and came up throwing to home, where Olesnevich received the ball in time to tag Walter Riggs, who tried to score from second base.
Then junior third baseman Scott Ventura shined in the sixth, as he hustled to snag a bunt rolling along the foul line and got the out at first. Two at-bats later, he dove to his left to corral a sharp grounder, got back to his feet and made the throw across the diamond in time.
“I looked around at one point and said, ‘This looks like a professional baseball game,' ” Pedrosky said. “If you've been around our team, it's such a fun environment, and as coaches, we're lucky to be around these kids.”
Olesnevich scored both runs for Deer Lakes after reaching base each time by getting hit with a pitch.
In the third inning, he stole second, went to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on an infield single by Todd Coleman, who was 2 for 3.
Olesnevich extended Deer Lakes' lead when he beat South Side Beaver pitcher Nolan Lamont to the plate after Lamont threw a wild pitch in the top of the fifth.
“A lot of people don't recognize him because he's from Deer Lakes, but he's one of the best catchers in Class AA,” Pedrosky said of Olesnevich. “He has excellent arm strength, he's a wall behind the plate and on the bases, he's aggressive and he's smart.”
When able to keep his feisty fastballs and curves in or near the strike zone, Lamont kept Deer Lakes' offense quiet. He allowed four hits, struck out 13, walked two and hit two batters.
South Side Beaver had the tying run at the plate when Coleman made the throw from near the left-field grass to end the game.
“Everything that you heard they'd do, they did an extremely great job at it,” South Side Beaver coach Chip Hunter said. “They ran the bases extremely well, and they capitalized on our mistakes. Hats off to them, because they're a well-coached team and a great team, and they deserve this victory.”