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Familiar foes California, Carmichaels set to meet in Class A title game

| Saturday, May 24, 2014, 12:31 a.m.
Daniel Kubus | For the Tribune-Review
California ace Josh Luko, delivering a pitch during the WPIAL baseball playoffs on May 19, will take the mound again in the Class A title game Tuesday.

When long-time rivals California Area and Carmichaels take the field Tuesday at Consol Energy Field for the WPIAL Class A title, the Trojans will be trying to do something that is often said to be hard to do.

They're trying to beat an opponent three times in one season.

The unbeaten Trojans (19-0) and Mikes (14-2), rivals in Section 1, will do battle 8 p.m. after Seton-La Salle and Steel Valley in the Class AA title game at 5 p.m.

The lone blemishes on the Mikes' record were two section losses to the Trojans, one an embarrassing 14-0 shellacking April 9 at Malden Yards when Carmichaels' ace Brandon Lawless wasn't in the lineup. The second loss was a much-closer 6-5 verdict at Carmichaels May 6.

In the second win, the Trojans overcame a 5-2 deficit late in the game with four runs in the top of the seventh inning.

California coach Nick Damico isn't worried about the “three win” theory because, in his eyes, the first game against the Mikes didn't count.

“I told (Carmichaels coach Scott VanSickle) after the first game that I don't count this one because they didn't have a full squad,” Damico said. “And the second time we played, we very easily could have lost.”

Damico says the two teams stack up very evenly from top to bottom in their lineups.

“We have our strengths and they have theirs,” he said. “Really, it is an even matchup and I just think it's going to come down to execution.”

The two teams will pit their ace hurlers against one another as unbeaten Josh Luko (9-0) will take the mound for the Trojans against Lawless.

Ironically, Damico will be coaching against one of his good friends as his relationship with VanSickle goes back to their playing days at California University in 2000.

“We were roommates and I dated his sister for two years,” Damico said, “so I was at a lot of their family functions, like holidays and things like that.

“We competed against each other in the Fayette County League for years and the one year we did play together in 2009 for Mario's, we won the league championship.”

Damico said that playing against Carmichaels and VanSickle in a WPIAL title game is a “dream matchup.”

“To me, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity and I can't believe that it has happened my first year (as head coach),” he said. “I don't know if it will ever happen again.

“I wouldn't want to play against anybody else in the championship, I can tell you that.”

The WPIAL Class AAA and AAAA title games will be played at Consol Energy Field on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, Sewickley Academy and Riverview will play in the Class A consolation game at Washington & Jefferson with the winner earning a PIAA berth.

The PIAA playoffs get underway June 2.

If California wins, the Trojans will take on the second place team from District 9 in the first round.

If the Trojans lose, they will meet the champion from District 5.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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