New Castle News

Sports

April 13, 2013

Spring Sports: A roundup of local action for April 13

NEW CASTLE — The Laurel High baseball team is starting to put it all together.

For the second game in a row, the hits were plentiful, the pitching kept opposing batters in check and the much-maligned defense held up.

With those factors working as one, it’s not surprising that the Spartans were able to leave Ewing Park with a 7-2 victory over host Ellwood City Lincoln.

“Every time you play Ellwood City, they’re ready for you,” Laurel coach Eric Verdi said. “I thought we battled really hard.”

The Spartans jumped on Wolverines starter Dillon Horgan early in the WPIAL Section 5-AA battle, with three runs through three innings. Laurel (3-2 section, 3-3 overall) broke the game open in the fifth with three runs off the bat of Jacob Reese. Reese lined a triple that scored a pair then advanced home on a fielding miscue by Ellwood.

 “That was big. We were up at the time and he hit the triple and they made a throwing error, so he cleared the bases right there, including himself,” Verdi said. “That was a big three-run triple right there.”

Big hits have become the norm for the Spartans in their last two games, both section wins, as the team has smacked 27 hits. It all starts with leadoff man Ray Scala, who had his second four-hit game this week with a double and three singles. Scala is 8 for 10 from the plate during that span.

 “He’s our table setter and our leadoff guy. We can make things happen with him on base,” Verdi said. “Him being on base and being in a little groove right now, that’s how we score runs. I’m proud of his progress right now at the plate.”

Laurel starter Brandon Ritchie (2-1), a George Washington recruit, rebounded from a tough outing in a 13-2 loss to Riverside. He allowed just two hits to Wolverines batters through seven innings, striking out eight.

“Brandon gave us another good game on the mound,” Verdi said. “I can say this about Brandon all the time, he’s the guy you always want to have the ball. He had a great fastball in the cold.”

A start time of 6 p.m. made the temperature a bit colder than the average game, but Ritchie’s fastball was on fire.

“Ritchie was tough. He had one of his best games of the year, I think. His fastball was in the high 80s,” Ellwood coach Jeff Fotia said. “His curveball was outstanding.”

Errors that knocked Laurel out of games earlier in the season have mostly disappeared as of late. The Spartans have committed three errors in their two wins after letting up five against in that 13-2 defeat to the Panthers.

“I figured that if we would play more games, we’d show improvement,” Verdi said. “I’m by no means satisfied, but we’re going to continue to work. I’m proud of the small steps we’re making and the good progress.”

The Wolverines (0-5, 1-8) have struggled throughout the season, a trend Fotia hopes will end in the second half.

“It’s inexperience and it’s youth. We’re getting close to the second half now,” Fotia said. “I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt of being inexperienced before, but now they should be pitching the next level up. I know they’re trying, they’re giving us everything they got.”

Ellwood, the defending WPIAL Class AA champions, lost key starters from last year’s squad and have had to compete with the growing pains of a young pitching staff. Horgan, one of those young starters, went 4 2/3 innings, surrendering nine hits, six runs and four earned runs.  

“We’ve been pitching sophomores and freshman. They’ve been doing the majority of our pitching,” Fotia said. “They’re giving us everything they have, but if they have one bad inning or a breakdown, things go haywire.

“We’re going to snap out of it. We might be down, but we’re not out yet. We’re Wolverines; we’re tough critters.”

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