Riverview baseball team falls short in bid for PIAA berth
Equal parts excitement and exhaustion hung in the air around Sewickley Academy's dugout during the moments immediately following Thursday's WPIAL Class A baseball consolation game.
In Riverview's dugout, there was exasperation.
With a spot in the PIAA Class A playoffs on the line, Riverview and Sewickley Academy answered each other's offensive outbursts and defensive meltdowns during the Panthers' 9-8 win in nine innings in the WPIAL consolation game Thursday night at Washington & Jefferson's Ross Memorial Park.
Sophomore Drew Zbihley delivered his second walk-off hit in two weeks, a bases-loaded single to right field that drove in Ben DiNardo.
No. 13 seed Sewickley Academy (10-6) advanced to play District 9 champion Elk County Catholic (21-0) in the PIAA first round Monday at a time and site to be determined.
“We knew we were better than our seeding,” said Zbihley, who also had a walk-off hit in the Panthers' 4-2 win over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the quarterfinals. “We've had our ups and downs, but when we pull together, we can play with the best of them.”
No. 11 Riverview (14-7) left the field irked about several controversial calls made by the first base umpire, who awarded Sewickley Academy a double play in the first inning and charged the Raiders with runner interference in the sixth. The latter call extended an inning in which the Panthers scored their game-tying eighth run.
“I feel bad for these guys that put everything out there, and then they've got to have that happen to them,” Riverview coach Rich Griser said. “They're battling themselves, and then they've got to battle (the umps) too.”
When the teams found their offenses in the sixth inning, they did so with help from wavering defenses.
Hanus walked and later scored on a passed ball. Jake Paradise reached on a throwing error to first base and put the Raiders ahead 8-5 when Sewickley Academy again failed to get an out on a routine ground ball to first.
Sewickley used a leadoff single, a hit-by-pitch and a walk to load the bases in the bottom of the sixth. John Nagel hit a sacrifice fly, and Connor Duddy beat a throw home after Riverview tried to get Drew Zbihley, who moved to second on a fly ball.
Zbihley seemingly was thrown out stealing third to end the bottom of the sixth, but the umpires called runner interference on Hanus at shortstop. Zbihley scored during the following at-bat on a wild pitch to tie the game at 8.
“This was an unbelievable baseball game,” Sewickley Academy coach Andrew Heck said. “There were a lot of tough calls, but they go both ways. You can be upset about that, or you can move on, and we did a heck of a job moving on.”
Riverview's Jason Anthony drove in three runs with triple to deep left-center field in the top of the third. Anthony then scored when shortstop Sam Duerr mishandled a grounder.
Duerr redeemed himself in the bottom half of the inning with a ground-rule double, and Derrick Littlefield followed with a two-run double that tied the score at 4.