No. 1 California rolls into WPIAL finals with victory over Sewickley Academy
California baseball coach Nick Damico switched up his lineup for Monday's semifinal-round game against Sewickley Academy, and the move worked perfectly.
Damico moved Jake Columbus from the fifth spot to leadoff and the senior responded with a 5-for-5 effort in leading No. 1 California (19-0) to a 16-5 six-inning victory at Washington & Jefferson's Ross Memorial Park.
California will face section rival Carmichaels, which defeated Riverview, 9-0, at 1 p.m. May 27 at Consol Energy Park. California won the two previous meetings.
The Trojans pounded out 18 hits off three Sewickley Academy pitchers and jumped out to a 10-1 lead after two innings. Sewickley Academy's defense also contributed to the loss as it committed four errors and the pitchers had seven wild pitches.
“California came out swinging the bats,” Sewickley Academy coach Andy Heck said. “We'd sure like to start this game over. We didn't play like we're capable defensively.”
California banged out five singles in the first inning to grab a 3-1 lead.
The Trojans sent 11 batters to the plate in the second inning and scored seven more runs for a 10-1 lead.
“I've never batted leadoff or had five hits in a game in high school,” Columbus said. “My job as the leadoff hitter was to see pitches, and that's what I did. I was seeing the ball well.”
Columbus had a double, four singles, scored three runs and had an RBI. Aaron Previsky had three hits, including a triple. He and Louden Conte each scored three runs.
“The goal is to have all three facets of the game working well,” Damico said. “We had the hitting (Monday) and we had the defense on and off. Our pitching was subpar in my opinion. It could have been a lot better.”
Damico started senior Josh Luko and he worked two innings, allowing a run. With an 11-1 lead in the third, Damico decided to use junior Garitt Woodburn, who allowed four unearned runs, walked three batters and had three wild pitches.
Freshman Nate Luketich entered the game with two outs in the fourth inning and runners on first and third. He retired Ben Dinardo and then didn't allow a run over the final two innings to earn the victory.
“We wanted to see what Garitt had,” Damico said. “He's typically been good, but it wasn't his day. We're going to need Garitt.”
Sewickley Academy, which had nine hits, got three from Drew Johnson. The Panthers cut the California lead to 12-5 in the fourth inning, but the Trojans put the game away with four runs in the sixth inning.
“Getting the lead helps a lot,” Damico said. “The offense came through. We only had three hits in the previous game.
“Nate came in and did a good job. Pretty awesome a freshman gets the win in the semifinals.”
The last time California won the WPIAL title was in 2006.