Monroeville ready for shot at postseason
The Allegheny East American Legion regular season concludes Friday, and Monroeville hopes to finish up strong with a home game at Gateway High School against Swissvale at 7:30 p.m.
Monroeville suffered a tough 7-6 loss to Plum on Monday that put its record at 6-4-2 in the 16-game schedule with games against Penn Hills and Shaler also remaining on the schedule.
“We've been playing pretty well lately, and I think we can do well in the playoffs,” Monroeville manager Rob Wratcher said.
Monroeville saw a four-game unbeaten streak stopped against Plum.
Four of the six teams in the Allegheny East league qualify for the playoffs, set to begin Saturday.
The double-elimination tournament, with all games at Gateway High School, is slated to conclude next Wednesday.
Saturday's games will be at 1 and 4 p.m.
An elimination game will be at 1 p.m. on Sunday, with the winner's-bracket game at 4.
Games Monday through Wednesday will be at 6 p.m.
The regular season concludes Friday, and a point system — two points for a win and one for a tie — will be used to determine the qualifiers.
The winner of the league playoffs will advance to the Region 6 tournament, set to begin July 20 at host Blackhawk.
Rain threatened a busy schedule Tuesday and Wednesday.
Monroeville jumped out to a 5-0 lead on Plum in the top of the first Monday.
It used three Plum errors and five hits to gain the big lead.
Ryan Kearns and Alex Augustine collected back-to-back RBI singles, and Jesse Rossi followed with a run-scoring double.
A single from Alan Muir with two outs plated two more runs.
Plum battled back with a run in the third and a big six-run effort in the top of the fourth.
Monroeville got a run back in the fifth but could get no closer.
All six of Plum's runs in the fourth inning were unearned.
Eric Bellisario led off the inning with a single, and Nick Sekerka was hit by a pitch from Monroeville starter Nick Zervoudis.
Brandon Hoener then grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to put a damper on Plum's momentum in the inning.
However, things would turn out well for Plum.
Will Kirkpatrick came up next and struck out, but the ball squirted away from Muir, who wasn't able to throw down to first successfully to complete the strikeout.
Bellisario scored on the play to make it 5-2.
With new life, the next five Plum batters reached base, as Zervoudis and reliever Dan Toner were chased from the game.
Matt Zezza singled and Trevor Roessler walked to load the bases. Marc Russo then beat out an infield single to plate Kirkpatrick.
Andrew Dawson followed with the hit of the game, a bases-clearing double to left to give Plum a 6-5 lead.
An RBI single from Zach Sansonetti wrapped up the scoring in the frame.
“Nick pitched a strong game,” Wratcher said. “He should've been out of that (fourth) inning.”
Zervoudis gave up no earned runs, four hits and two walks. He struck out five.
Muir helped Monroeville in the top of the fifth with a run-scoring double. He finished 3 for 4 with a double and two singles.
However, there was controversy earlier in the inning.
With no outs and Augustine on first after an inning-opening single, Rossi drove a ball to center field that Sekerka camped under to make a catch.
The ball, however, landed on the center field grass. The umpire on the bases ruled that Sekerka made the catch, and the ball fell to the ground as he was transferring it to his throwing hand.
Monroeville coaches and players, including Wratcher, felt Sekerka simply dropped the ball, but the call was not reversed.
“It was frustrating,” Wratcher said.
“The kids are out there busting their butts. We need to win as many as we can to get the highest seed we can. To have a run taken away like that is tough.”
Monroeville hit into a double play to end the sixth inning, and a close play at first base went in Plum's favor, much to the chagrin of Wratcher, who was ejected from the game for arguing the call.
Dawson finished the game 2 for 4 with four RBI, while Russo collected three hits in four plate appearances.
Monroeville upended Springdale, the league's first-place team, 6-5 on Sunday.
“We fell behind, but we were able to come back with some big hits,” Wratcher said.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.