Mistakes prove costly for West Mifflin in PIAA 1st round loss
ERIE — The scoreboard numbers pained West Mifflin coach Jeff Smith.
“It's a hard one to swallow,” said Smith after Tuesday's first-round loss to Erie Cathedral Prep, 9-2, in the PIAA Class AAA playoffs at Jerry Uht Park. “With six errors and two hits, you're not going to beat many teams.”
The lack of hits was explainable. Cathedral Prep starter Carter Cross was sharp for six innings.
The errors were more surprising.
“We played pretty good defense all year, and today we didn't,” Smith said. “It's not like they were hard-hit balls we were missing. Most of them were throwing errors.”
With an error, four hits and a walk, Cathedral Prep scored five runs in the second inning. West Mifflin had two errors and a run-scoring balk in the sixth, when the Ramblers scored four more.
“We've been pretty sound defensively all year,” senior third baseman Ryan Catalogna said. “That's just not us. To see that just hurts.”
“It's happened to us,” Prep coach Dave Hess said of the errors. “Baseball is funny. It just happens.”
Cathedral Prep (20-3) was the District 10 champion.
West Mifflin (15-6), the WPIAL's third-place team, was in the state playoffs for the first time.
“They should be very, very proud to accomplish something no other team had accomplished,” Smith said. “I'm just a little disappointed today.”
A right-handed sophomore, Cross retired the first 12 West Mifflin batters in order. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning when Catalogna lofted a no-out single to center.
The hit sparked a two-run inning for West Mifflin. The Titans had runners on second and third after catcher Dan Howard walked, Catalogna singled and first baseman Joe Stavor moved them over.
A pick-off error by Cross allowed courtesy runner Jake Liposky to score from third. Catalogna then scored from second on a two-out infield single by Robinson. West Mifflin trailed 5-2.
In the WPIAL consolation game, West Mifflin rallied to beat Hampton, 8-5. But Prep's four-run sixth inning crushed any comeback hopes.
“When they scored five, we got down a little bit,” Catalonga said, “ ... but the four just really killed us.”
Cross had three walks and seven strikeouts in six innings. He pitched a four-hitter to win the District 10 championship. Sam Riley pitched a scoreless seventh.
West Mifflin starter Zach Salmon was relieved by Dom Robinson eight batters into the second inning after six of them reached base. The junior pitched in every playoff game this season.
“He's a very good pitcher but when you are pitching every playoff game, it takes its toll on you,” Smith said.