NEW CASTLE —
Neshannock High seems primed for another postseason run.
The Lancers finished the season undefeated in WPIAL Section 3-A play with its 5-1 win over visiting Union yesterday.
Alex Welker improved to 4-1, allowing just one hit and one unearned run over five innings. He struck out six and walked three. He gave way to Mike Ross, who fanned three, walked one and yielded two hits over two innings to earn his first save.
Both pitchers will play key roles for the Lancers (12-0 section, 18-2 overall), who are ranked second in the WPIAL in Class A by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in the playoffs.
“Our biggest thing all year is, we lost our No. 2 pitcher, Joe Cioffi, and we’ve been trying to find out who’s going to be our No. 2,” Neshannock coach Mike Kirkwood said. “We think Welker and Ross are a nice combination to give us a good No. 2 duo.”
Matt Cioffi and John Sansone led the Lancers’ offense. Cioffi was 2 for 3 with two runs scored and an RBI, and Sansone went 2 for 3 with a run scored and an RBI. Each provided a pair of RBI singles in a two-run second inning.
Neshannock ended the year with its fifth-straight section title. They’re 44-1 in the section over that span.
“It’s a pretty good accomplishment, especially for our seniors,” Kirkwood said. “They worked hard over the last four years.”
Laurel’s Brandon Ritchie struck out 14 batters as the Spartans completed the regular season with a road win over Section 5-AA rival Shenango.
Ritchie yielded one run on four hits and two walks. He also went 1 for 3 with an RBI at the plate.
“Early in the game, he didn’t have real good command of the curve or the change,” Laurel coach Eric Verdi said. “He had to rely on the fastball, but after about the third or fourth inning he was able to throw the curve and change for strikes, so he could rely on that as well.”
Up 1-0, the playoff-bound Spartans (10-4, 15-5) extended their lead to 3-0 in the third, when Rick Jones belted a solo home run to left-center field. Ritchie added an RBI single later in the game.
Jordan O’Hara started and pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing three runs — two earned — on three hits and three walks. He struck out two and fell to 0-1. Doug Bennett led Shenango, which started all its seniors, by going 2 for 3.
“The best way to summarize (this season) is that we were inconsistent,” Shenango coach Mike Othites said. “We won some big games, but then we came back and lost to some teams we shouldn’t. This section is too good to do that.
“This was their last time together,” he added, “and they battled one of the best pitchers in the league all the way to the end.”