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Laurel Spartans 

PITTSBURGH — The Laurel High baseball team didn’t have enough offense Thursday.

The Spartans managed just four hits in dropping a 3-2 PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal-round decision to Seton-LaSalle at Shaler High’s Matulevic Field.

Yesterday’s meeting was a rematch of the WPIAL semifinals, which Seton-LaSalle won 5-4 with a run in the seventh.

Rebels freshman starter Drew Lafferty, a University of Kentucky recruit, tossed a complete-game gem. He allowed one earned run with two walks and 12 strikeouts.

“Their pitcher had really good command today,” Laurel coach Todd Fennick said. “He has a good fastball and good off-speed pitch.

“We had our opportunities, we just didn’t make the most of it.”

Laurel’s season comes to an end at 13-8. The Spartans won their first PIAA playoff game in program history this year. Laurel clinched a berth in the state playoffs by upsetting WPIAL top seed Shenango in the district quarterfinals, 4-2.

“We had a rough start but an excellent finish,” Fennick said. “We played some of our best ball in the last few weeks.

“We have no seniors on this team. I’m looking forward to this team coming back with the experience they gained this year, the bar has been set high. We’ll be looking forward to that.”

Seton-LaSalle (21-2) advances to the state semifinals and will meet Serra Catholic (22-3) Monday at a time and site to be determined. The Rebels have won two of the first three meetings between the teams this season.

Seton-LaSalle wasted little time taking the upper hand against Laurel. The Rebels went up 1-0 in the top of the first when Lafferty drove in leadoff hitter Nick Vari on an RBI single to left. Vari reached on an error by Will Shaffer.

Laurel finished with four errors, all of them proving costly.

“We absolutely knew it would be a tight game,” Fennick said. “Seton-LaSalle is a very good team in all aspects.

“We knew we would have to play our best baseball today and we didn’t do that. We came up short in our level of play today and that’s what really hurt us in the end.”

Rebels coach Mike Wagner knew the team that got on the board first would have an advantage.

“It was big to score first, especially since we weren’t the home team,” Wagner said. “I wasn’t comfortable not being the home team. We wanted to score early.”

That 1-0 lead held up behind Lafferty until the third. Lafferty struck out the side in the first and he retired the side in order in the second, fanning two of the three batters he faced.

The Spartans broke through in the third. Lafferty struck out Robert Herr to open the third. But Kobe DeRosa laced a triple to the gap in right-center for Laurel’s first hit. Landin Esposito laid down a bunt and DeRosa scored on a wild throw from the catcher to first base. Esposito, Laurel’s starting pitcher, went to third on the play. Fennick sent out Justin Fell to replace Esposito on third base as the courtesy runner.

“Kobe’s bat has been good all year,” Fennick said. “When he gets on base he can fly. We love to watch him run the bases.

“When he’s coming in to second I’m not going to slow him down too much. I’m going to turn him loose.”

Fell was stranded on third when Parker Giddings struck out for the second out and Michael Pasquarello bounced back to Lafferty to end the threat.

The momentum didn’t stay in the Spartans’ favor for long. Seton-LaSalle tallied two markers in the top of the fourth for a 3-1 lead. Lafferty hit a grounder to third baseman Tanner Stewart that was misplayed, allowing two runs to score.

Laurel tightened things up with an earned run off Lafferty in the sixth. With one out, Pasquarello struck out. But the pitch from Lafferty was wild and went all the way to the backstop, allowing Pasquarello to reach safely.

Dom Wade hit a slow roller to third base for the second out and Pasquarello took second on the play. Stewart then delivered an RBI single to cut it to 3-2.

Laurel threatened in the seventh. Robert Herr led off with a walk. DeRosa tried to bunt him over but eventually struck out. Herr stole second to get into scoring position with one out. But Esposito lined into a game-ending double play to first base.

“These boys don’t quit, they never have,” Fennick said. “We’ve been in a lot of one-run games, a lot of close games.

“They give me seven innings. That’s one of their best qualities. They did it today, too.”

Wagner wasn’t pleased with Herr’s stolen base.

“I was more disappointed in my team that they weren’t prepared for it,” he said. “You want them to earn second base in that situation. We kind of just gave the base away. That out there, it was smoked. If it was 10 feet either way, this is a tie game, at least. Maybe they win. It was lucky on our part it was right at the fielder for the double play.

“I’d much rather be up by more than one going to the last inning when you’re away.”

Lafferty entered the seventh with 85 pitches. He tossed 12 pitches in the final frame. Pitchers can’t surpass 105 pitches in a playoff game.

Esposito (4-2) suffered the loss. He worked five innings, allowing three hits and three unearned runs with four walks and two strikeouts.

Herr came on and held Seton-LaSalle in check. Herr tossed two scoreless innings, giving up no hits with two walks and two strikeouts.

“I think both of our pitchers did well today. That was definitely one of our stronger points,” Fennick said. “Esposito had good command and he challenged the hitters. Our defense didn’t support him at times when they needed to.

“Esposito had more location and control and a good off-speed pitch. He was getting his curveball over for a strike quite a bit. He did a nice job of keeping them off balance.” 

rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com

Sports Writer

Ron Poniewasz Jr. is a sports writer at the New Castle News. Email him at rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com.

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