The book is closed on the 2013 Union High baseball team.
Those interested in reading the last chapter should turn to the page titled, “Missed Opportunities.”
There were plenty of them in the Scotties 5-1 loss to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals at Pullman Park in Butler.
Although a four-run game isn’t exactly a close score on paper, reading between the lines reveals a Union offense that left five runners in scoring position in the waning moments of the contest.
“We had our chances. A big hit here-or-there, you know anything,” Scotties first-year coach Mark Stanley said. “I thought we had a chance to tie it up there. It’s baseball.”
Union (13-6) didn’t look like it would pose much of a threat to Chargers’ starter Preston Falascino through the first three innings. The hurler held the 10th-seeded Scotties hitless until an RBI two-bagger by Drew Robinson scored the team’s only run of the game in the fourth. Falascino went seven innings, allowing six hits, three walks and striking out 10.
Falascino could have been had an inning earlier as the Scotties had a golden opportunity to score with John Hilke, who reached on an error, standing at third. A passed ball scooted through OLSH catcher Jason Lanoy as Hilke broke for home. Lanoy recovered quickly, pitching the ball to Falascino who tagged out Hilke to end the frame.
The Union bats fared better a second time around the order. In the fifth, Hilke led things off with a double and Markel Peace followed by legging out an infield single. Jacob Jendrysik moved the runners over on a sacrifice, but Wayne Seamans tallied the second out swinging and missing on a 3-2 curveball.
Still in business with two runners in scoring position, the Scotties were thwarted on a controversial call at first as Joe Salmen was declared out on a bang-bang play to end the inning. At the time, OLSH held onto a 3-1 advantage.
“I said to the kids that he (Falascino) was pounding the strike zone, let’s be aggressive,” Stanley said. “Hilke, he was able to get his bat on some balls and Drew had a couple of nice hits. He (Falascino) throws the curve and changes pace a little bit. That’s what a good pitcher does. To their credit, they made the plays.”
The second-seeded Chargers (18-2), ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class A by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, extended their lead to 4-1 in the top of the sixth on a run-scoring double by Falascino off his pitching counterpart, Carrington Bell.
It was one of 12 hits allowed by Bell, who went seven innings, surrendering five runs, five walks and striking out 10. The numbers don’t really do Bell justice, however, as he impressed both coaches with his ability to work out of jams.
“It was an absolute battle. Union came out, and they played a great game. We left a lot of guys on base,” OLSH coach Phil McCarren said. “I guess you could look at it that way, but they worked themselves out of jams. Their pitcher, Bell, he was in a lot of jams early with guys on base and he just beared down and struck guys out. I tip my hat to him. He threw a great game and Union battled all the way to the end, but we found a way to scratch and claw our way and add runs.”
With top pitchers Salmen and Devan Schuller working the team’s first-round victory over North Catholic, Bell was charged with taking the mound against a potent Chargers offense. Things were shaky early as he walked the first two batters in each of the first two innings, however, Bell was able to bring the heat on an already hot afternoon, using back-to-back strikeouts in both innings to leave the runners stranded. OLSH left 13 total runners on base in the game.
“He was able to put the zeroes on the board. It’s not easy on coaches when he’s doing that, but he’s got the stuff and he’s capable of doing that,” Stanley said. “That’s the way he pitches — he’ll get around the plate and whatever. Sometimes that makes you a little tougher to hit, too. He was able to answer the bell for us and keep us right there.”
The final and perhaps greatest opportunity for the Scotties to put a dent on the scoreboard came in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out. Falascino was able to work out of it, inducing a 4-6-3 double play on a Hilke ground ball to end the threat.
The Chargers added an insurance run in the seventh, and Falascino was able to shut the door in the bottom of the inning to end the game and the season for Union.
Although the year ended with disappointment, the story of the 2013 Scotties baseball team was a resounding success.
“These kids, they worked hard. I don’t have any complaints,” Stanley said. “Coming into it, they are very fun to work with. I have four kids and my other coaches have kids around the dugout. It’s a kid-friendly atmosphere they make, you can trust them around your kids. It was a success all the way through — what type of gentlemen they were to what type of players they were. That speaks volume for that. I started with them when they were in kindergarten, now I get to see the team graduate, which is a plus for me.”
OLSH moves on to face sixth-seeded California (17-4) in the semifinals.
The book is closed on the 2013 Union High baseball team.
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