PITTSBURGH — Cashing in opportunities in the playoffs is a recipe for success.
Thursday, that concoction didn’t aid the Neshannock High baseball team.
The Lancers left eight runners on base and hit into two inning-ending double plays in a 9-1 PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal-round loss to Serra Catholic at Shaler High School’s Matulevic Field.
Conversely, the Eagles took full advantage of Neshannock miscues to pull away for the victory.
“We were prepared, we just didn’t play well at all,” Lancers coach Mike Kirkwood said. “We gave them too many chances, too many outs. Good teams are going to beat you and that’s what they did.
“They’re fundamentally sound. We just didn’t capitalize on anything they gave us and they capitalized on the mistakes we made.”
Neshannock’s season ends at 19-4. The Lancers dropped a 4-1 verdict to Serra Catholic in the WPIAL semifinals. Serra Catholic didn’t hit a ball out of the infield in the sixth inning of that game, but scored three runs to break a 1-1 tie and get the win.
“Overall, (WPIAL section) co-champs and we were still playing in June. It’s not a bad season. But it’s still not the way we want to finish it,” Kirkwood said. “If you play hard and you play fundamentally sound and you lose, it’s not a big deal. But when you play the way we did here, it should hurt for a while. It should be like a sickening feeling for the kids in general.”
The Eagles (22-3) advance to meet Seton-LaSalle in the PIAA semifinals Monday at a time and site to be determined.
Serra Catholic jumped on Neshannock and starting pitcher Matt DuBois for two runs in the first inning.
St. John’s recruit Mark Black was moved from the third spot in the Eagles’ order to the leadoff spot and he opened the game with a lined shot down the line in left for a single. After a walk put runners on first and second, Pat Brennan slugged a two-run double for a 2-0 Serra Catholic lead.
“We had talked about the importance of an early lead,” Eagles coach Brian Dzurenda said. “It’s the same pitcher we faced in the WPIAL playoffs (DuBois).
“I didn’t think we were aggressive enough offensively. I felt like if we could get a lead our pitching would hold them down and we might have an opportunity to win the game.”
The Eagles managed just three more hits the whole game. But they took advantage of three Lancers errors and a costly wild pitch with the bases loaded that allowed two runs to score.
“That’s two games in a row where we’ve self destructed and they capitalized on it,” Kirkwood said.
The Lancers got on the board in the top of the third, cutting the deficit to 3-1. Neshannock’s Jake Staph led off the inning with a single but he was erased when Preston reached on a fielder’s choice. Frank DeLuca got on base when left fielder Dom Puzzanchera dropped a fly ball to put runners on first and second. Gerald Taylor then reached on a fielder’s choice on a throwing error by second baseman Jaydon Mertz. DuBois flew out to end the threat.
“They ended up throwing one away. It was kind of a situation where they helped us out a little bit,” Kirkwood said. “We just have to come back with a nice hit or something else and make it hurt.
“A couple of times when they did they give us a couple of errors we just couldn’t capitalize on it. We have to score on those chances and keep it a close game.”
DuBois (6-2) started and took the loss. He worked 32/3 innings, giving up all five of the Eagles’ hits and five runs — three earned — with five walks and four strikeouts.
“Matt pitched well,” Kirkwood said. “They only had five hits and they scored nine runs. That usually doesn’t happen, but we gave a few away. We got behind and just uncharacteristically panicked a little bit.”
Alex Glumac started and picked up the win. Glumac tossed four innings, allowing two hits and an unearned run with two walks and three strikeouts.
“(Glumac) looked off to me today,” Dzurenda said. “He was able to get the job done, though.”
Neshannock managed just four total hits, one single apiece by Preston Turk, DeLuca, Zach Maize and Staph.