New Castle News

Sports

May 3, 2013

Spring Sports: A roundup of local action for May 3

NEW CASTLE — Laurel’s outfielders have quite the challenge — catch any ball in the air.

That might seem like an impossible task, but the Spartans came through yesterday at Shenango in a WPIAL Section 5-AA battle.

R. J. Stewart and Jake Reese produced highlight-reel diving catches on consecutive batters to help preserve Laurel’s 3-0 win over the Wildcats at Chuck Tanner Field.

“I thought our defense was outstanding, especially for a team that’s struggled defensively all year,” Laurel coach Eric Verdi said.

The Spartans (8-4 section, 8-6 overall), who have been inconsistent with the gloves, played error-free baseball against Shenango (5-8, 8-9). Stewart and Reese put the exclamation point on the perfect field performance.

“I thought the outfield has played very well since the start of the year. They work on tracking everything down,” Verdi said. “Our motto is that anything hit in the air shouldn’t hit the ground.”

The two outfielders came up clutch in the bottom of the fourth. With the Spartans ahead, 3-0, Shenango’s Brent McCormick led off with a single and Evan Kendall drew a walk. Pitcher Josh Dando struck out the next batter.

Rob Montanari followed with a soft liner to shallow right field. Stewart gave chase, dove and snagged the ball, which froze the ’Cats’ runners, who had moved to third and second on a wild pitch.

Tyler Booher stepped up and swatted a hard liner to the left-center gap. However, Reese raced after it, dove to his right and hauled in the ball to end the inning.

“They made two great plays. I give them credit,” Shenango coach Mike Othites said. “Both of those guys went full out and made great plays. That was the difference in the game. Both pitchers pitched great.

“It was a good battle. I am proud of my pitcher. That’s the furthest he’s went. I am real pleased with the way he pitched against a good-hitting team.”

Both Dando and Shenango’s James Brown pitched well and yielded four hits apiece. Brown fanned seven, while Dando struck out six.

“I think Josh did great. I told the guys that sometimes our swings are going to be bad. We didn’t have good approaches at the plate, but Josh always gives us a chance to win,” Verdi said. “I had confidence in our defense to make plays and it did. I am proud of them.”

Dando drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the third and Stewart drew a bases-loaded walk to give Laurel a 2-0 edge. The Spartans tacked on a run in the third on Ray Stewart’s single.

The win moves Laurel into a tie for the section’s final WPIAL playoff spot with Neshannock (8-4, 11-4), which was idle. The teams meet Monday at Laurel in a key battle. The Spartans prevailed, 9-2, in the first meeting.

“It’s a big game. It was a big one for us the first time, to stay in it,” Verdi said. “It’s always fun when we play those guys. I am sure they’re looking forward to it and we are, too.”

 

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