T-D HS Baseball

dirienzo 3
A ground ball by Alex Dirienzo, shown in a previous game, scored Michael Van Lenten to give Somerset a 3-0 lead in Monday’s PIAA Class AAA first-round playoff game in Upper St. Clair. South Park won, 7-5, to take the District 6 champions out of the playoffs.

South Park bounces Somerset in Class AAA

By: Mike Kovak

UPPER ST. CLAIR — Given the number of quality pitchers for both Somerset and South Park, logic dictated Monday’s PIAA Class AAA first-round baseball game would be a low-scoring contest.
Then, Somerset came out in the top of the first inning and chased South Park starter Randy Dobnak four batters into the game.
The problem for the District 6 champion was South Park proved equally capable at the plate, whether the Eagles were swinging at pitches from starter Drew Hemminger or hard-throwing Virginia Commonwealth recruit Ian Stiffler.
South Park also displayed a knack for hitting triples in clutch situation. The District 7 champion smacked  three of them – all in key situations – that propelled undefeated South Park into the quarterfinals with a tougher-than-expected 7-5 victory at Upper St. Clair’s Boyce-Mayview Park.
“That’s a great baseball team. Nobody’s beat them so far,” Somerset coach Steve Costea said. “We showed up and played our game. We hit the ball. It was there for the taking.”
The Golden Eagles (18-5), who scored two runs in winning the District 6 title, wasted little time in racing to a 3-0 lead.
Stiffler led off with an opposite-field double. Ross Dirienzo followed with a run-scoring single. Hemminger, who finished 3-for-4, singled for Somerset’s third consecutive hit before Brent Barron made it 2-0 with a run-scoring single. That’s when South Park coach Steve Bucci, who guided Canon-McMillan to the 2008 PIAA Class AAAA title, pulled Dobnak in favor of lefty Jake Bywalski.
“(Dobnak) threw fastballs and we came at them hard,” Costea said.
Alex Dirienzo made it 3-0 when his ground ball scored Michael Van Lenten, who courtesy ran for Hemminger.
“It’s about perseverance at that point. You’re in survival mode,” Bucci said.
South Park (21-0) mirrored Somerset’s success in the bottom of the first.
Bywalski reached by error. Carter Grote, who reached base in all four plate appearances and scored twice, followed with a run-scoring double. Three batters later, Shane Fetsko ripped a two-run triple for a 3-3 tie. Fetsko tripled again in the fifth inning and scored on Dobnak’s fielder’s choice to give South Park a 5-4 lead, its first of the game.
That run came against Stiffler, who entered in the fourth inning. The Eagles got to Stiffler for four runs, including two in pivotal sixth inning when South Park pieced together three consecutive two-out hits, including a RBI triple from Nick Yobbi, who pitched the 22⁄3 innings for the win.
“He missed some locations, but he has a big arm and when you have that kind of arm, you can get away with that sometimes,” Bucci said.
Against teams like South Park, which features five players with at least 20 RBI, small mistakes can turn into big plays.
Even if Somerset’s offense broke out of its postseason slump.
The Golden Eagles outhit the Eagles, 10-9, and they left the bases loaded in the third inning. Somerset left two runners at third base.
Those missed opportunities led to a tearful dugout following the top of the seventh inning.
“We’ve got a lot of seniors on this team and our seniors are great. They usually are,” Costea said. “These guys tacked up a lot of wins and kept the program up.”