ERIE, Pa. – As soon as he hit it, he knew were it was going. Maybe not the precise landing spot, but Cole Constable knew that the ball was going over the fence.
And with that one swing, Constable plated three runs and helped lift Cathedral Prep to a 6-5 comeback win over Montour in their PIAA Class 4A baseball first round game at Mercyhurst University.
Listen to the game:
“I knew it was (gone),” Constable said. “I ended up staying on the fastball. He didn’t throw me any offspeed pitches, but one changeup. I knew a fastball was going to come again. I got a fastball to drive and put it in the bleachers. It’s an awesome feeling.”
See Constable’s full postgame interview:
The Ramblers (22-1) were in unfamiliar territory at that point, trailing late in the game. The Spartans had scored five runs over the fourth and fifth innings to take a 5-3 lead into the sixth.
Andrew Malec drew a leadoff walk to start the Prep sixth, but was forced out at second on John Koshan’s grounder to short. One out later, Nick Jackson walked to put runners on first and second and Constable stepped into the batter’s box.
“There was nothing but positivity,” Constable said about stepping into the box. “In my head I was thinking, ‘This isn’t the way I want to go out as a senior,’” Constable said. “I’ve been playing with some of these boys since I was five years old and I don’t want to do it with anyone else. I was looking to do something for the team right there and it happened.”
Spartans pitcher Jake Robinson grooved a 2-1 fastball and Constable launched it into the bleachers in left-center.
Hear the home run call:
Malec, who had come on in relief for Luke Costello in the fifth, emphatically shut the door on any Montour comeback in the seventh. He got Nick Walker to ground out to start the inning, then struck out Cole Fleck and Maddox Tarquino to end the game.
“There was so much emotion,” Malec said of the final out. “Cole just had the biggest moment of his life and I just knew after that home run I had to go out there and give it my all and bring home the win.”
See Malec’s full postgame interview:
The Ramblers took the lead in the second inning. Jason Fultz was hit by a pitch to start the frame, then Brayden Sprickman moved Fultz to second with a sac bunt. Malec drew a walk and, one out later, Joey Spano brought in Fultz with an RBI single.
Jackson was hit by a pitch to load the bases, then Constable was hit to bring in Malec and give Prep a 2-0 lead.
Prep tacked on another run in the third after Costello hit a leadoff double and Sprickman brought him in with a single.
Montour tied it in the fourth.
Fleck led off with a single and Tarquino reached on an error to put runners at first and second. Vinnie Markulin put down a sac bunt to move the runners, and Fleck came in on Adam Weber’s ground out. Tony Markulin followed with an RBI single and scored when Andrew Costello wasn’t able to track Brock Janeda’s high pop-up to second.
With one out in the top of the fifth, Walker was awarded first base on a catcher’s interference. Fleck was hit by a pitch prompting the pitching change from Luke Costello to Malec. Tarquino followed with a single to load the bases.
Walker scored on a wild pitch and Vinnie Markulin’s RBI single gave the Spartans the 5-3 advantage.
“Just working for one,” Malec said of the message in the dugout after falling behind. “Just keep working for one, don’t give up, be relentless. We have each other’s backs and it took all 22 of us to bring home that win.”
Robinson took the loss allowing six runs, five earned, on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts in 5 ⅔ innings.
Jackson and Constable each had two hits. Constable had four RBIs.
Malec picked up the win scattering two hits over 2 ⅔ scoreless innings with four strikeouts. Luke Costello allowed five runs, one earned, on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts in 4 ⅓ innings.
Cathedral Prep will face Hopewell, a 3-0 winner over Northern Lebanon, in the quarterfinals on Thursday at a site and time to be announced.
“We’re going to go back to work tomorrow,” Constable said. “We know what our goal is, and our goal is to win a state championship. We can’t do that without being a team and being together.”
CLASS 3A FIRST ROUND
PUNXSUTAWNEY 9, NESHANNOCK 1
DUBOIS, Pa. – In a matchup of two teams with perennial state championship aspirations, District 9 champion Punxsutawney used a five-run third inning to beat WPIAL runner-up Neshannock, 9-1, at Showers Field in DuBois.
“That is a great baseball team,” Punxsutawney manager Mike Dickey said motioning to where Neshannock was in its postgame huddle. “And, we made them look pedestrian today. Jake was spotting his fastball beautifully and obviously had great at-bats. Our speed was at work on the bases, and big, big two-out hit. We just put all kinds of pressure on. That was a beautiful performance.”
Rewatch the game
Jake would be senior pitcher (and hitter) Jake Sikoria.
Sikora was once again solid on the mound going 5 ⅓ innings allowing one run on two hits, six walks, and two hit batters while striking out seven.
But it was actually Sikora’s bat that really did the talking, as he was 4-for-4 with three doubles and two RBIs. His courtesy/pinch runners scored twice.
“It was just there today,” Sikora said. “Some days it is, and some days it isn’t. I was just on.”
Sikora’s pitching line was skewed a bit by a fourth inning that saw him walk three, including a run home, and hit a batter after sitting for about 27 minutes during the five-run third inning.
Other than that, he was having his way with a strong Neshannock lineup.
“Just spot the fastball, try to keep it down,” Sikora said when asked what his strategy was coming into the game. “Get them to ground themselves out. They are a good team of hitters, that is for sure.”
The game was decided in the third inning when Punxsutawney, which won its school-record-tying 19th game, sent 11 batters to the plate and forced three pitching changes by Neshannock manager John Quahliero.
“We were hitting everybody,” Dickey said. “We worked counts, we had ABs.”
Hitting, walking, it didn’t matter. The Chucks found a way to get runners all over the place.
Nevin Day started the third inning with a base hit to center, and after Carter Savage struck out, Cameron Foy, Neshannock’s second pitcher of the day, threw ball one to Sikora before being lifted in favor of Jacob Walzer.
That didn’t go well for the Lancers, as Sikora singled Day to second, and Justin Miller walked to load the bases.
That was it for Walzer. On came Andrew Frye.
Frye, like Walzer and starter Grant Melzer, didn’t get an out.
An errant pickoff throw to third allowed two runs to score and sent Miller all the way to third. Zeke Bennett then walked to put runners on the corner, and Cooper Hallman singled to make it 6-0 and leave runners at the corners.
Peyton Hetrick then put down a safety squeeze that scored Bennett with Donnie Bender, Hallman’s courtesy runner, going all the way to third when the throw to the plate was wild.
Zach Dinger was then hit by a pitch, one of three times in the game the Punxsutawney leadoff man was plunked.
That ended Frye’s day, as Giovanni Valentine took over.
Valentine struck out Josh Tyger, but Day drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 7-0.
“Honestly, we were prepared for Frye (to start),” Dickey said. “We prepared all week for Frye. Then we didn’t get him. So, we were like ok let’s reset, let’s refocus.”
Instead of getting Frye right out of the gate, the Chucks saw Melder, who pitched eight shutout innings in Neshannock’s 1-0 loss in the 2022 PIAA Class 2A title game. But Melder had offseason shoulder surgery and came into Monday having thrown only two innings all season and none since May 8.
Qualiero said before the game that Melder would have a short leash, and he wasn’t lying.
The starter pitched to just two batters, walking both of them, before Neshannock went to Foy.
It looked like Foy would escape the early jam when he struck out Day and Savage, but Sikora beat him with a double to left to give Punxsutawney an early 2-0 lead.
“It broke the seal,” Dickey said.
Sikora believed those two runs might be all the Chucks were going to get putting the pressure on him early.
“The other runs were just an added bonus on,” Sikora said.
Watch Sikora’s full postgame interview
Hetrick added a pair of hits in the victory going 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Dinger scored twice (he also walked in addition to being hit by the three pitches), and Hallman had two RBIs.
Neshannock used six pitchers with Melder taking the loss.
Punxsutawney, which advanced to the semifinals a year ago, will face District 6 champion Philipsburg-Osceola, in the quarterfinals Thursday at a site and time to be announced.
FAIRVIEW 3, EAST ALLEGHENY 1
ERIE, Pa. – All four runs in the game were scored in one inning as Fairview outlasted East Allegheny in a pitcher’s duel for a 3-1 win in their PIAA Class 3A first-round game at Mercyhurst University.
Colin Bolla was magnificent again on the mound for the Tigers scattering five hits over his 6 ⅔ innings of work. He allowed just one run, walked four, and struck out 13. Aari Fox put up all zeros in his ⅓ inning.
The Wildcats’ duo of Joe Connors and Michael Cahill kept pace with Bolla. Connors got the start and took the loss allowing two earned runs on two hits with four walks and three strikeouts in four innings. Cahill allowed one unearned run on one hit with two walks and two strikeouts.
East Allegheny put the first run on the board in the fifth. Fairview intentionally walked Connors with two outs to put runners on first and second. Traynor Janosko made the Tigers pay for that decision by ripping an RBI double to left.
Fairview wasted little time responding.
Tyler Benford started the Tigers’ fifth with a single. Brady Baker drew a walk, and Caleb Sklenski reached on an error to load the bases. Adam Skelly poked a 2-run double to right to give Fairview the lead. One out later, Vinny Campoli hit an RBI groundout to bring in the final run.
The Wildcats’ Chance Odoski was the only player on either team with multiple hits.
Fairview will face WPIAL champion and undefeated Riverside, a 3-2 winner over Tyrone, in the quarterfinals on Thursday at a site and time to be announced.
CLASS 6A FIRST ROUND
NORTH ALLEGHENY 11, MCDOWELL 5
ERIE, Pa. – North Allegheny scored four runs in the fifth to grab the lead, then added five more in the seventh to break the game open in an 11-5 win over McDowell in their PIAA Class 6A first-round game at Mercyhurst University.
The Tigers led 2-1 through four innings, then struck for four runs in the fifth. The Trojans had cut the lead to 6-3 after six, but North Allegheny answered with a 5-spot in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
North Allegheny led 2-1 heading to the fifth. A walk, a single, and an error brought in a run to make it 3-1. Another run came in on a passed ball, and Anthony Varlotta’s RBI single made it 5-1. Varlotta appeared to be caught off third later in the inning, but Josh Samluk slid on the turf while fielding Brady Kramer’s throw down and couldn’t recover in time to get Varlotta before he crossed the plate.
Carter Swanson’s RBI ground out in the bottom of the inning cut the deficit to 6-2. McDowell plated another run in the sixth when Kramer drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 6-3.
The Tigers’ offense took over in the seventh. A hit batter and two walks loaded the bases for Harron Lee who promptly hit a 2-run double to right. Andrew Daugherty followed with a sac fly to bring in another run, and Spencer Barnett brought in Lee with an RBI double to make it 9-3. North Allegheny added two more runs in the inning to take an 11-3 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
Connor Cross hit an RBI single and Nick Hamilton drew a bases-loaded walk for the final runs of the game.
The game started rather inauspiciously as Tigers’ leadoff man Lee lifted a ball to left-center on the first pitch. Centerfielder Jake Hower immediately put his hands up to indicate the ball bounced over the fence. The second base umpire initially signaled a home run. After a conference, the umpires reversed the initial call and ruled the hit a double.
Two outs later, Ian Zahorchak drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in Lee for the game’s first run.
Lee hit a pair of doubles, scored twice, and drove in three runs to lead the Tigers’ offense.
David Posey got the win allowing three earned runs on three hits with six walks and eight strikeouts in five innings.
Hower and Jake Banks each had two hits for the Trojans.
Hamilton got the start and allowed three earned runs on three hits with five walks and two strikeouts in four innings. Spencer Deitz took the loss allowing eight runs, seven earned on four hits with five walks and three strikeouts in 2 ⅓ innings.
North Allegheny will take on District 3 champion Cedar Cliff in the quarterfinals Thursday at a site and time to be announced.