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Carmichaels ready for rematch

| Sunday, June 8, 2008

As the second and third seeds, respectively, in the WPIAL Class A playoffs, Serra Catholic and Carmichaels were destined to face each other in the postseason.

What neither team knew was that their showdown in the WPIAL semifinals was only a precursor for their matchup at 6 p.m. Monday at Consol Energy Park in Washington with a berth in the state championship game on the line.

Carmichaels (22-1) won the first meeting between the teams on May 21, 7-3, on the artificial turf at Seton Hill and went on to defeat Rochester, 4-3, to capture its third WPIAL crown. The Mikes are expecting a very similar game when the two meet again for the right to play on Friday at Blair County Ballpark in Altoona.

"We've seen them once, and we've scouted them three or four times, and they're friends of ours, actually," Carmichaels coach Dave Bates said. "This is when it gets fun, when you can finish out in the semifinal or final round, play people you know and respect, recognize reputations ... that's when baseball becomes fun at its peak."

Carmichaels is the only Class A team not to have allowed a run in the state playoffs and has used three pitchers to keep its shutout streak intact. Chuck Gasti and Billy Musgrove combined on a six-inning shutout in a 10-0 victory over District 9 third-place finisher Keystone in the opener, then Joby Lapkowicz struck out 10 and allowed only two hits before Gasti finished off the last two innings in a 7-0 victory against District 6 champion Homer-Center.

Lapkowicz took a no-hitter through four innings before Eric Cusimano broke it up with a grounder up the middle to lead off the fifth. Gasti struck out two and also gave up a single to Cusimano in the seventh before he shut the door.

"We were looking at innings, pitch count, what we were going to do on Monday and, because we had a five-run lead, we could do that," Bates said. "The plan was (to have the pitchers' innings go) 3-3-1 like we were going to do against Keystone (in the first round), but (Lapkowicz) asked to go one more inning, and he got sick at the end. He had a little bit of a stomach ache, and we got Chuck in there, and Chuck was throwing pretty good, and now we've got everybody ready to go Monday against Serra."

Lapkowicz was extremely effective with both his fastball and curveball against Homer-Center and used his curve to set up the fastball instead of the other way around. When he's doing that, he is virtually unhittable, and he knows he'll have to do that to be ready for Serra Catholic in the rematch.

"When I'm able to throw that fastball by them and throw the curveball for a strike, it really helps me out, because they can't just sit on fastballs," Lapkowicz said. "It's an advantage for us because we know we can beat them, but they'll also be ready for us, because we took away their chance at a WPIAL title."

Though Bates was a little vague on who would start against the Eagles, he'll likely send Lapkowicz to the hill on three days' rest and have Gasti and Musgrove ready in relief.

"Probably Joby, but I have no clue," Bates said. "We'll see how everybody feels, that's all."

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