Season ends for Cinderella Seneca Valley in PIAA semifinals
TribLIVE Sports Videos
SCOTLAND, Pa. — Three years apart, on the same field, against the same school, Seneca Valley's baseball season ended one round short of the state championship.
Yet, the emotion was different this time.
“It hurts because you were so close and you had an opportunity,” Seneca Valley coach Eric Semega said after Monday's semifinal loss to Conestoga, 3-2, in the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs at Green Township Park. “Sometimes you just wish you'd get blown out and have it be that way.”
But he also admitted he didn't really mean that.
“You always want a chance,” Semega said.
Conestoga won 11-1 in 2011, a lopsided six-inning outcome that was decided early. Seneca Valley had chances in this rematch, which included an out at the plate. Trailing 3-2 in the fifth inning, John Brittner was tagged out trying to steal home on a wild pitch with two outs.
“It was a bang-bang play,” Semega said, “that didn't go in our favor.”
The loss ended an unexpected playoff run for WPIAL champion Seneca Valley (12-12), which barely reached the postseason with a 6-11 record. Seeded last in the 16-team WPIAL playoffs, the Raiders won six straight to reach Monday's state semifinal.
“To look back at what they did, and how they did it and what they achieved, they have a lot to be proud of,” Semega said.
Seneca Valley had five hits and four walks against undefeated Conestoga left-hander Jake Buko (7-0), but the Raiders stranded seven runners. The last was a leadoff walk by Matt Hajduk in the bottom of seventh. Pinch runner Dan Barna reached only second base.
“We put the ball in play often today,” said Semega, whose batters struck out just once. “We just didn't get the big hit when we needed it.”
Seneca Valley was the last surviving WPIAL team in any classification of the PIAA playoffs. For the first time since 1992, the WPIAL won't have a team in the state baseball finals.
Conestoga (22-7), the third-place team from District 1, will face District 12 champion La Salle College in the Class AAAA final on Friday. Both schools are from the Philadelphia area.
Seneca Valley made Buko work harder than he had all season, Conestoga coach John Vogan said. The left-handed senior entered with an ERA below 1.00.
“Someone told me (Seneca Valley's) record,” Vogan said. “That's not a (12-12) ball club.”
Trailing 2-0, Seneca Valley scored twice in the third when John Davis, John Harper and Brittner singled. But with the bases loaded, Connor Coward smacked a well-hit liner that Buko fielded for the final out.
“That's a huge momentum changer in the game right there,” Semega said, “but it didn't go through.”
Buko also made the tag at home on Brittner in the fifth, when catcher Andrew Turner chased down the wild pitch. On pitches in the dirt, Semega allows his runners to decide whether to advance or not.
“I don't know if he hesitated or just went,” said Semega, who coaches third. “I think it was far enough away. It was a gamble situation.”
A similar gamble had worked in the third inning, when Harper scored on a wild pitch to force a 2-2 tie.
Seneca Valley senior Alex Hajduk allowed five hits and two walks in six innings. Coward pitched a scoreless seventh.
Hajduk allowed two runs in the first inning and a tie-breaking run in the fourth, when Conestoga's Steve Born hit a leadoff double and scored.
In the first, Conestoga's Austin Shirley hit a leadoff single, Ryne Ogren drew a walk and Andrew Born drove them in with a one-out single.
Seneca Valley's last chance to tie came in the seventh when Hajduk drew a leadoff walk. But Buko's wildness hurt the Raiders, who needed two at-bats to lay down a sacrifice bunt. With two outs and a runner on second, No. 3 hitter Matt Rafferty grounded out.
“You want to get a guy in scoring position,” Semega said of the bunt strategy, “... It didn't work out for us today.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Open records office orders Mt. Lebanon to release deer cull emails
- McIntyre students hope Buddy Bench is beneficial to all
- Tomlin: Steelers as healthy as can be expected at this point in season
- Pitt’s Dixon monitoring minutes
- Steelers not giving up on wresting AFC North from Bengals
- Bowl destination is at stake for Pitt football in regular-season finale
- Rookie linebacker Chickillo adjusting to role with Steelers
- Vatican puts 5 on trial for leaks
- Steelers notebook: Players get back to work after bye
- Stocks shake off Middle East tensions, drop in consumer confidence
- Arrest made in West End bank robbery