New Castle News
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.”
Shelby Brown recorded two hits and five RBIs to lead the Lady Warriors to a Section 5-AA road win over Freedom. The game was stopped after five innings because of the mercy rule.
Jaki Bender (6-0) earned the win. Bender went the distance, giving up two hits and two runs — one earned — with no walks and six strikeouts.
Devon Giancola added two RBIs for Mohawk (5-0, 6-0), which had nine hits.
“This was a good game for us,” Lady Warriors coach Pam Beatty said. “Most of the girls had a hit and that made it nice; the whole team is doing well.
“Jaki did real well pitching. We’ll keep working on little things. You have to continue to work on fundamentals.”
Mohawk scored one run in the first, six in the second, three in the third and two more in the fifth.
The Lady Bulldogs (0-7, 0-7) plated both of their markers in the fourth.
Sikora paces meet
Tessa Sikora paced Wilmington at the Union Invitational.
Sikora powered a Lady Greyhounds team that captured six events, claiming wins in the 200, long jump and triple jump.
Three Wilmington teammates — Hannah Drake, Allison Baldwin and Rikki Brumbaugh — also were multiple winners on the Lady Greyhounds’ 1600 and 3200 winning relay teams. Wilmington’s Kate Robb (3200 relay) and Hannah Winters (1600 relay) earned a victory apiece.
Julie Falvo rounded out the Lady Greyhounds stellar performance with a first-place finish in the discus.
Neshannock’s Lizzie Manickas outran the pack in the 1600 and 3200 while Laurel’s Ashley Glasser scored the top effort in the 400.
West Middlesex took top honors of the 10 schools at the meet with 133 1/2 team points. Wilmington ranked as the best Lawrence County team in second with 120 points. Lakeview was third with 82 1/2 points followed by Mohawk (53), Neshannock (50), Shenango (45), Moniteau (25), New Castle (22), Laurel (21) and host Union (6).