MCKEES ROCKS – Nick Riotto was well aware of the No. 14 seed the Trinity baseball team received when the WPIAL Class AAA baseball playoff brackets were released.
The same cannot be said for whether or not his teammates cared all that much.
With Riotto, a senior left-hander, tossing a complete-game gem and right fielder Zach Kenny driving in the winning run on a high-bouncing single in the sixth inning, Trinity pulled off a stunner by knocking off third-seeded Hampton, 4-3, Monday at Burkett Athletic Complex in Robinson Township.
“We came in here, what, as a 14 seed, I think?” Riotto said. “They’re the three seed, and they had all the pressure on them. I think we came out and played like we didn’t have anything to lose. If we keep it up, I think we can go a long way.”
Trinity (10-8) advanced to the quarterfinal round and will play sixth-seeded West Allegheny – likely on Wednesday, though all of those details are still to be determined.
For Hampton, which made three errors and stranded eight runners on base, the loss renders a Section 5-AAA title relatively meaningless and finishes the Talbots’ season at 17-3.
“We gave it away,” Hampton coach Matt Torrence said. “We made a couple errors, and they took advantage of it, bottom line. We didn’t hit the ball when we had chances. They gave us chances. We didn’t take advantage.”
Riotto went the distance and allowed seven hits. He struck out eight, walked two and hit a batter. His curveball danced. His fastball was there when he needed it. He caught four Hampton hitters looking, including first baseman Steve Dayton to end it.
The win gives Riotto, a Penn State recruit, a 5-1 record this season with 43 strikeouts and nine walks.
“Nick is our leader,” Trinity coach Scott Henson said. “We go as he goes. He had a great game.”
Trinity pulled ahead for good in the top of the fourth inning.
Hillers third baseman Lou Favetti reached on an error, went to second on a groundout and moved to third on a passed ball.
With Hampton’s infield drawn in to try and cut off the go-ahead run, Kenny hit a bouncer that was too high for Talbots third baseman Zach Staszak to handle.
“I was trying to drive it the other direction, but I got it over his head so it worked,” Kenny said. “I was just trying to get a hit. That’s all I was trying to do.”
Trinity catcher Dustin Galentine had three hits and two RBI, including a double in the second inning. Kenny added two more hits for the Hillers, who have pitchers Don McWreath, Cory Humphreys, Jason Vankirk and Noah Lolley rested and ready.
“We knew if we could get into the playoffs, we’d have the pitching,” Henson said.
Hampton jumped ahead, 1-0, in the bottom of the first inning when second baseman Tom Radzminski singled and scored on a two-out single from designated hitter Ben Vey.
Trinity answered with three runs in the top of the second. Designated hitter Connor Fritz singled, and Kenny beat out a sacrifice bunt. Galentine’s double to center scored both. Center fielder Ryan Moon lined an 0-2 pitch to right field for an RBI single for Trinity’s third run.
Hampton tied it without so much as a hit in the bottom of the third.
Vey reached on a fielder’s choice, and Dayton walked. They moved into scoring position on one wild pitch, and Vey scored on a second. Dayton came around to score on the same play after Galentine’s throw skipped away from Riotto, who was covering at home.
That sequence gave little hope for those looking at Trinity to pull off an upset, though Riotto and his teammates weren’t exactly lacking for confidence.
“It’s been the same way all year,” said Riotto, who was 1-for-4 at the plate. “I don’t think anybody really expected us to do much, but we’re going to come out here and grind. That’s what we were able to do today.”