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PIAA Class AAA baseball championship notebook: Long wait over for Knoch assistant

| Friday, June 12, 2015, 5:54 p.m.

UNIVERSITY PARK — Knoch assistant coach Steve Hall was part of the school's first baseball team in 1990 as a player.

Now he has a championship team as a coach.

That inaugural team finished 9-7.

Knoch had three players taken in the MLB Draft before the school even sponsored a team.

The program has experienced a bunch of firsts this season.

“It's unbelievable,” Hall said as the team was celebrating on the field. “There's been lots of change. We have a great group of seniors that have been there for each other. I'm blessed to be part of it.”

It's been a while

Friday marked the first time in 28 years that an Alle-Kiski Valley school won a PIAA baseball title.

Ford City defeated Newport, 1-0, to win the 1987 Class AA title.

Riverview was the only other local team to bring home PIAA gold, defeating Schuylkill Haven, 4-3, in 1983.

Semper Fi

Knoch senior reserve outfielder Joel Zacherl was not with the team Friday. He was in Parris Island, S.C., with the Marines. He checked in to boot camp Monday.

Zacherl's mother, Tina, accepted his gold medal after the game.

Aggressive baserunning

Taking chances are part of any championship team, and Knoch was no different.

In the seventh after Chris Law drove in what proved to be the winning run, Law wasn't satisfied being stationed at first base.

He stole second then was breaking for third when Cole Shinsky hit the ball on the left side of the diamond to score Law with a big insurance run.

“I think that messed up the shortstop a little bit,” Law said. “We want to put pressure on them to make plays.”

Pinch runner Dustin Montgomery, in for Shinsky, also broke for second as Jordan Kowalski singled to right, allowing Montgomery to easily take third.

Celebration time

The new state champs were scheduled to be met Friday evening at Roebling Park in Saxonburg.

Knights players were being discharged from the team bus there for a walking parade down Main Street.

Saxonburg parades were part of the landscape in the late 1970s and early '80s when Knoch had some great football teams.

That tradition was resurrected briefly in 2011 when the Knights made a run to the WPIAL football finals.

PNC Park look-alike

Penn State's Medlar Field was originally the site of a Pirates farm team.

The dimensions are similar to PNC Park, with a 325-foot distance in left, going to 410 feet in left center, similar to PNC's North Side Notch. It's 399 to dead center, 375 to right center and 320 with a Clemente Wall-type structure in deep right.

All that's missing is a river beyond right field.

The State College Spikes are now a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate.

Working in reverse

Former Pirates play-by-play announcer Bob Prince traditionally said the Pirates needed “a bloop and a blast” when they trailed by two runs late and needed a rally.

Knoch's game-winning sixth inning consisted of a blast and a couple of bleeders.

Dom Bucko drilled a triple that hit Medlar Field's 21-foot wall in right field on the bounce with two outs to begin the rally. The run-scoring singles that followed, off the bats of Law and Shinsky, were of the seeing-eye variety.

“I thought it was going to carry (out of the park), but the wind was holding it up and there was a lot of humidity,” Bucko said.

Law said he was sure his single would go through, but he snuck a peek just to make sure.

Knoch's magic number

Knoch had its third four-run inning in two games Friday, sending nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the second to take a 4-2 lead. The Knights had a pair of four-run innings in their 8-2 victory over Donegal in the PIAA semifinals.

After scoring four runs combined in their first two PIAA playoff games, Knoch totaled 15 in the last two.

Going the distance

The official Knoch sports Twitter account (@KnochAthletics) called on a well-known baseball movie in advance of the PIAA championship game.

Tweets from the account Thursday included well-known lines from “Field of Dreams,” including, “If you build it, he will come”; “Ease his pain”; and “Go the distance.”

After the Knights won the championship came this tweet: “Is this Heaven? No, it's Saxonburg!”

Athletic director Mike King, who runs the account, said he hadn't watched the movie recently.

“It's committed to memory,” King said. “I was fired up.”

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