NEW CASTLE —
Walks can be a killer in the playoffs.
Yesterday, they dealt a deadly blow to the Neshannock High baseball team.
Lancers pitcher Alex Welker issued seven free passes and four of them came around to score as Elk County Catholic held on for a 4-3 PIAA Class A quarterfinal-round win over Neshannock at White Township Park.
Welker was coming off two sparkling performances in the WPIAL playoffs, earning the win in both games. He pitched 11 total innings in the district playoffs with six walks and 12 strikeouts.
“It’s just tough. We always talk about walks and things,” Neshannock coach Mike Kirkwood said. “He threw two great outings before, and we were hoping for another great outing from him, but it was tough.
“He just didn’t have it and the strike zone fluctuated a little bit both ways. Sometimes you throw a pitch that you think is a strike and it’s not, and there’s nothing you can do.”
Welker (5-2) pitched just 3 1/3 innings, giving up four hits and four runs — three earned — with seven walks and three strikeouts.
“Their pitcher was struggling there, even in early in the game,” Crusaders coach Tom Zampogna said. “I don’t know if he was tired or not. But he was throwing more balls than strikes.
“We were very selective at the plate and it worked in our favor.”
END OF THE LINE
Neshannock’s loss halts a 20-game winning streak and ends a bid at a state title. The Lancers (22-3), in their final season in Class A before climbing to double-A, entered the state playoffs as the two-time defending WPIAL champions.
“I feel sorry for the seniors and the kids that are done,” Kirkwood said. “Sometimes you get one opportunity with a group of kids.
“On paper, based on what we’ve seen and stuff, you’d think we were the better team, but things happen in baseball. We won 20 straight games, you’re bound to do something wrong or have something happen. We just didn’t get it done.”
Elk County Catholic (18-6) advances to meet Bishop McCort in the semifinals on Monday at a time and site to be determined. Bishop McCort (22-2) moved on with a 9-8 win over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.