By Pete Chiodo
And just like that, Saegertown’s stupendous spring has come to an end.
Last week, the school was celebrating District 10 championships in three sports — baseball, softball and boys volleyball.
Yet, after Monday the school is left lamenting three season-ending losses, the last of which occurred yesterday evening after the baseball squad fell to Quaker Valley 6-5 in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs at Jerry Uht Park.
“It’s painful,” said Saegertown head coach Tim Crum. “This wasn’t where the goals ended. But you don’t get any second chances at this level. We’re not ready for this to be over. We’ve worked way too hard. But I am really proud of these boys. It was a fantastic season. It was a fantastic run for these seniors. They led the charge for three straight D-10 titles. And there are teams out there that don’t have one D-10 title.
Crum added, “I think we were as good as (Quaker Valley). It just wasn’t our day (Monday).”
Quaker Valley (22-1) pounded out a dozen base hits in the game, benefiting from a swing-first, ask-questions-later approach at the plate.
“When we were in the WPIAL championship game, we took a lot of pitches and fell behind a lot and that hurt us,” said Quakers coach Todd Goble. “So our whole approach (Monday) was to be aggressive early.”
That mentality truly paid off in the fifth inning. Saegertown had a 2-1 lead. And the Quakers had only one out left in the inning when they struck for five straight base hits, bringing home three runs to take a 4-2 lead.
That was the final inning for starting pitcher Luke Carter. He went five frames, allowed four earned runs on eight hits, walked one and struck out two.
Matt Thompson took over on the mound in the fourth, and Quaker Valley led off that inning with three straight hits, scoring two more runs to take a 6-2 lead.
“They out-hit us,” said Crum. “They were jumping all over the ball. And the bottom of the order was doing what ours was doing all year long — they were producing.”
Saegertown wasn’t going down without a fight, though.
In the bottom of the seventh, Kyle Wise led it off with a single down the third base line. Scott Sada drew a walk to put two on with no outs.
Then Stephen Sada belted a triple to right field to bring both runners home. It was his second three-bagger of the game. He also singled and scored in the third inning to tie the game at 1-1.
After his seventh-inning triple, Mitchell Wood brought Sada home with a single through the right side, making it a 6-5 game with the tying run on base and no outs.
The bunt sign was on for Austin Scere. The offering from QV pitcher Jake Pilewicz was well out of the strike zone, leaving Scere little opportunity to put the ball in play. But Wood took off. Catcher Ben Utterback’s throw to second was well ahead of Wood. Wood turned around and tried to make it back to first, but was gunned down.
The wind seemed sucked out of Saegertown’s sails. The last two batters went down in order. Game over.
“We had a bunt on,” said Crum. “It wasn’t a straight steal. (Wood) was being aggressive. We were trying to get that runner into scoring position. Then we’d have one out and our 4 and 5 batters up. It wasn’t Mitch’s mistake. I don’t want him shouldering that burden. It wasn’t any one kid’s mistake. We still had two outs. We still could have made something happen. But we didn’t do it.”
Pilewicz earned the win on the mound, working the final three innings in relief. He allowed three runs on three hits with two walks and no strikeouts.
Garbee, the starter, went four innings, allowed two runs on six hits, walked two and struck out zero.
Quaker Valley moves on to face Shady Side Academy — a winner over Blairsville yesterday, 3-1 in eight innings — in the PIAA quarterfinals.
Saegertown finishes its season with a record of 19-3 and says good-bye to five seniors, including, Carter, Stephen Sada, Scere, Tyler Walters, Jacob Digiacomo and Tyler McCray.