North Catholic rallies, wins Class AA baseball title
The smallest player on the North Catholic baseball team came up with the biggest hit and scored the game-winning run in the Trojans' 4-3 win over Seton-La Salle in the WPIAL Class AA championship game Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Park in Washington.
Junior Rob McCaughan -- 5-foot-5, 144 pounds -- hit a two-run, pinch-hit triple in the bottom of the seventh inning that tied the game, 3-3. McCaughan then scored what proved to be the winning run on a single by Fran Long.
North Catholic (15-9) beat Seton-La Salle (18-4) for the third time this season. Both teams advance to the PIAA playoffs that start next week.
"I knew it was a big situation," McCaughan said. "My heart was beating fast. I saw a low fast ball and went for it. It was my pitch. I was going (to) third all the way. I wanted to be aggressive. This is an awesome feeling."
Prior to the seventh, North Catholic's only other run was scored in the bottom of the first on a double by second baseman Ron Hughes and a single by pitcher Alex Valadja.
Seton-La Salle scored a run in the top of the second on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by first baseman Derek Law.
The Rebels got two runs in the top of the fourth on RBI singles by designated hitter Kevin O'Malley and Law.
Through the first six innings, North Catholic hadn't had much success against Seton-La Salle pitcher Patric Capatolla, who allowed four hits and one run in that time.
North Catholic manager Pat Fabian said he made the decision to use McCaughan as a pinch-hitter in that situation because he had done well against Capatolla in previous games this season, going 4 for 6.
He didn't expect a triple, however.
"We are not really considered a power-hitting team," Fabian said. "We are more of a small-ball team. We just try to be aggressive. That is usually our style. But we needed to do something because (Capatolla) was pitching a great game. But (McCaughan) came through big. I know he looks like a horse jockey, but he was big (yesterday)."
Seton-La Salle manager Shawn Trainor said he didn't think about taking out his pitcher with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Trainor said Capatolla hadn't thrown an excessive amount of pitches.
"He was pitching a great game," he said. "It was his game. We could have done more against their pitcher (Valadja). We had some base runners but weren't able to score. He is one of the best pitchers in the WPIAL."
Valadja, North Catholic's ace and a James Madison recruit, allowed three runs, three hits, and four walks in five innings. He struck out nine batter.
Fabian made a pitching change in the top of the sixth, replacing Valadja with Long, who allowed one hit and struck out three batters in two innings before delivering the game-winning RBI.
"The pitch was a curve ball, and I just got a good piece of it," said Long, a senior. "The thing about our team is we are good No. s 1-9. There was a little doubt because we are not used to being down."
One of the North Catholic fans was nervous, too.
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, a North Catholic graduate, said the comeback was fun to watch.
"This was pretty exciting," Ravenstahl said. "I was glad I was able to sneak out and watch it. I am sure Rob McCaughan's family was happy. His father works for me. He is the head of EMS, so it was fun for his family and for everyone at North Catholic."