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Sewickley Academy baseball falls in WPIAL quarterfinals

| Thursday, May 29, 2014, 1:12 p.m.

The Sewickley Academy baseball team's quest for a WPIAL title may have come to an end last week, but a spot in the state tournament remained a possibility earlier this week.

The Panthers (9-6) were scheduled to take on Riverview (14-6) on Wednesday evening at Washington & Jefferson with a PIAA tournament berth on the line. Results of the game were not available at press time.

The top three teams from the WPIAL earn the right to compete in the PIAA Class A tournament, which is slated to begin June 2. WPIAL Class A finalists California and Carmichaels are guaranteed the first two spots in the PIAA draw, with the winner of the Sewickley Academy-Riverview game entering the state tournament as the third seed from the WPIAL.

Sewickley Academy and Riverview qualified for the WPIAL playoffs as the third-place teams from their sections.

Panthers coach Andrew Heck was expecting a tight game against Riverview. Heck stuck around after his team's loss to California to watch Riverview take on Carmichaels in the other Class A semifinal at Washington & Jefferson last week, so he was able to get a bit of a preview of his team's next opponent.

“It's going to be a good matchup,” Heck said of Riverview. “We're going to have to play a good game to beat them.”

Sewickley Academy entered the consolation game with hopes of extending a season in which the team reached the WPIAL semifinals for the first time in school history.

The Panthers dispatched Bishop Canevin in the first round of the Class A tournament by the score of 6-4.

They took on Section 5-A rival Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the quarterfinal round, winning 4-2.

Sewickley Academy's WPIAL playoff run came to an end with a 16-5 loss to California — the same team that bounced the Panthers from the postseason in 2013 — in the semifinals May 19.

Heck felt his team was playing well through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

“I thought we really did a great job,” Heck said. “We were playing our game. We pitched well, we scored runs when we needed to and we played good defense.”

In the semifinals, however, the combination of lapses in the field by Sewickley Academy and a hot-hitting California team led to the Panthers' demise.

“We didn't pitch great (against California), but we could have played better defense behind our pitchers,” Heck said.

“You can't make errors on the simple plays.”

Heck's pitching options for the semifinals were hampered by an injury sustained by Joe Nagel in the OLSH game.

He was hurt in a collision at first base and still was feeling the effects on the day of the California game.

In addition, Drew Johnson was coming off a 93-pitch outing in the quarterfinals.

The pitching trio of Nagel, Johnson and Sam Duerr has been strong all season for the Panthers.

In the days leading up to the consolation matchup with Riverview, Heck was still undecided as to who would take the mound to start the game.

“I kind of have an idea of who I'll go with,” Heck said of his pitching options. “It will be one of those three guys. We'll see.”

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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