Latrobe baseball team claims first state championship
UNIVERSITY PARK — Latrobe captured its first PIAA baseball title Thursday by defeating District 11 champion Whitehall, 7-0, in the Class 5A championship game at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Heavy rain forced the game to be called in the top of the sixth inning.
Jared Kollar threw a three-hitter, striking out six and walking two. The Wildcats recorded nine hits.
Kollar drove in two runs, and Zach Kokoska, the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year, drove in the game's first run with a single.
Other Latrobe teams to win state titles were the girls cross country team (2005), boys golf team (2009) and the hockey team (2008, '09, '10 and '13). Latrobe's softball team fell in the Class 4A finals in 2007 and '08.
Latrobe (24-2) jumped on Whitehall starter Zach Gilbert in the first inning by scoring two runs on a Kokoska single to score Tyler Roble and a bases-loaded walk to Ryan Shawley.
“It's hard to explain how awesome this is,” Kollar said. “When we won our first state game, we were pretty much a Cinderella story once we won that game (Manheim Central).
“Our goal in this game was to start quickly. When you get the leadoff guy on, it sets the tempo. We tried to get on them early, and we did.”
The Wildcats chased Gilbert in the fourth inning by scoring three times. Roble singled home Isaac Echard, Griffin Clark singled home courtesy runner Connor Mondock, and Ryan Augustine's infield hit plated Kokoska.
Latrobe stretched its lead to 7-0 in the fifth inning on Kollar's two-run single that scored pinch-runner Ben Shaw and Echard.
“If you look at my face, you see some dried-up tears,” Latrobe coach Matt Basciano said. “This is pretty emotional. I'm so proud of these guys. This is all about them. They worked so hard.”
After Latrobe gave Kollar the lead, the right-hander was in control until the bottom of the fifth inning. But poor base-running and heads-up defense ended the Zephyrs' threat.
Whitehall (13-13) ran itself out of the inning. Robby Lamm singled, which would have loaded the bases with two outs, but the Wildcats caught two Zephyrs runners standing at third base. The ball was thrown to third baseman Mason Petrosky, who tagged both runners on the bag for the out.
“Just to get ahead early and start the tempo was huge,” Shawley said. “Coach kept telling us to add.”
Basciano said the team was able to put up that final mark on the checklist hanging in the locker room.
“This is unreal,” Shawley said. “I love these guys. To get two golds to end my high school career is a dream come true.”
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.