New Castle News

Sports

April 19, 2013

Photo Gallery, Story: A roundup of spring sports action for April 19

NEW CASTLE — The Laurel High baseball team climbed into playoff contention yesterday.

Brandon Ritchie worked around his nine walks by surrendering just three hits, pitching the Spartans to a 9-2 WPIAL Section 5-AA road win over the Lancers.

Ritchie (3-1), a George Washington University recruit, went the distance, giving up two earned runs and striking out eight.

“His control wasn’t where he wanted it to be or where we wanted it to be. But he battled and we made some plays,” Laurel coach Eric Verdi said. “We got some breaks; I’m very proud of the kids. This is a big win.”

The win vaults the Spartans ( 5-2 section, 5-3 overall), winners of four straight, into a third-place tie with the Lancers (5-2, 8-2).

“I did feel this was a must-win game for us,” Verdi said. “We were 4-2 (in the section) and we didn’t play very well against Riverside.

“We really needed this game. We preached it all week that we have to beat the good teams.”

Neshannock was coming off an emotional 2-1 win over Beaver (5-1, 5-2), which is a half-game behind the Panthers (6-1, 9-2) for first place in the section.

“It definitely does,” said Lancers coach Mike Kirkwood if the loss takes anything away from the win over Beaver. “We played Riverside tough. We beat Beaver. I told the kids after the win over Beaver, it’s a nice win. But it means absolutely nothing unless we beat Laurel.

“Laurel is playing very well right now, they’re playing as a team and they’re playing hard. That’s a credit to coach Verdi.”

The Lancers are ranked second in the WPIAL in Class AA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, while Riverside, the two-time defending PIAA champions, are ranked No. 1. The Bobcats are ranked third.

Neshannock captured the last two WPIAL Class A championships before climbing to double-A this season.

The Spartans jumped on Neshannock starter John Conglose for four runs in the top of the first inning.

“It’s very big to score like that early,” Verdi said. “Anytime you have Brandon on the mound, we know we just need a few.”

Conglose (3-1) took the loss. He tossed three innings, surrendering five hits and four runs — three earned — with a walk and a strikeout.

“Conglose has been pitching well for us and throwing strikes,” Kirkwood said. “But giving Brandon Ritchie that much room makes it tough to come back.”

Nick Peluso recorded two hits for Laurel, including a two-run homer in the first inning, his first of the year. He added an RBI single with two outs in the seventh for insurance.

“Nick’s homer was big,” Verdi said. “He had a real big hit in the seventh, too.”

The Spartans tallied their other five runs in the seventh.

The Lancers got single runs in the third and fifth frames.

“We knew going in that we wanted to be patient against Brandon,” Kirkwood said. “We didn’t want to chase pitches.

“We got the walks and we hit a couple of balls hard. We just couldn’t get that big hit that we needed.”

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