UPPER ST. CLAIR – Based on the first two innings of Chartiers-Houston’s WPIAL baseball first-round playoff game against Steel Valley, the final score would resemble something more appropriate in a basketball court setting.
Early jitters were prevalent for both sides, with walks, wild pitches and defensive misplays aplenty. The contest appeared set for a final at-bat victory for one of the teams, which favored the Ironmen, who were the home team.
The Bucs’ Dylan Pounds wouldn’t have that. He fended off the early nerves and retired 15 of the last 18 batters of the game and also drove in what proved to be the winning run as No. 11 Chartiers-Houston pulled off the upset of No. 6 Steel Valley, 7-5, Monday, at Boyce Mayview Park in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.
“I was nervous coming into today, but everybody kept coming up to me and kept relaxing me,” said Pounds. “I knew it was going to be a fight to the end.”
Chartiers-Houston plays another upset-minded team in Shady Side Academy, which knocked off No. 3 Riverside, 9-2, in the quarterfinals at a date, site and time to be determined.
The Bucs (12-7) jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning, including Tyler Day’s RBI single. Steel Valley responded quickly, getting run-scoring singles from Derek Morrison and Jesse Cantley after Pounds allowed the first two batters to reach base.
The Ironmen (12-6) struck for three unearned runs in the bottom of the second, one coming home on Morrison’s second RBI base hit of the game.
The lead was short-lived. Pounds led off the third with a double and went to third after an error in right field. Troy Whitfield’s single three batters later scored Pounds. Alec Ferrari, who had walked, scored on a fielder’s choice, and Whitfield crossed home to tie the game on an errant pickoff throw.
“The first couple innings, we had some misplays on both teams,” said C-H coach Adam Petras. “We helped them out a little bit. They helped us out a little, so it went back and forth.”
Doug Dinardo doubled to open the Bucs’ half of the fourth – he was 1-for-1 with three walks – and scored to put the Bucs ahead, 6-5, when Pounds singled him home. Pounds would come around to score on a groundout and two wild pitches.
“When you give up three runs in an inning, you’re worried that you’re not able to battle back,” said Petras, “but they picked themselves right back up and went back to work.”
“I’m really happy they did,” added Pounds. “The guys hit the ball well. We were patient at the plate.”
The game belonged to Pounds’ arm from there. From the third inning on, he allowed only three baserunners, one of which was erased on a double play. He stranded a runner at third in the fifth inning and finished with seven strikeouts in the complete game victory.
“Dylan really settled down,” Petras said. “That shows his mental toughness. He was in jams early, his pitch count was up high, but he never wavered. That’s a testament to the kind of pitcher he is.”
Even when things got a little interesting with a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh and Morrison coming to the plate, the game was Pounds’ one way or the other. When asked if he thought of pulling Pounds, Petras didn’t take long to say, “No.”
Steel Valley walked seven batters, had four wild pitches and two passed balls. … Pounds was the only Buc with multiple hits. He was 2-for-4. … The first three batters in Chartiers-Houston’s lineup – Dinardo, Kaleb Susko and Pounds – scored five runs.