UPPER ST. CLAIR – In two seconds, it was over and the baseball players from Chartiers-Houston and Shady Side Academy acted accordingly.
One pitch, one swing and nothing but undeserved heartache for Chartiers-Houston. For Shady Side Academy, it was unexpected joy.
As Jake Kleindl’s perfectly placed hit into the gap in right centerfield with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday afternoon chased home Chuckie Scales and Chris Sawicki, giving the Indians a stunning 2-1 victory in the WPIAL Class AA baseball quarterfinals, the players from Chartiers-Houston were left numb.
Some of the Bucs delayed their exit from the perfectly manicured grass field at Boyce-Mayview Park, instead opting to stare blankly at the ground in motionless disbelief. A few slowly walked off the infield.
Meanwhile, Shady Side Academy’s players were mobbing Kleindl between first and second base. Instead of joining his team’s celebration, head coach Bob Grandizio moved from the third-base coach’s box, took a few steps down the line and stopped hard-luck C-H pitcher Alec Ferrari in the basepath.
Grandizio had a message to deliver.
“We’re in the line of working with kids, and all of us have been involved in tough losses before. I wanted to tell (Ferrari) that I had just seen one great pitching performance. That game he threw was the best-pitched game we’ve seen all year. I admired that performance, and I wanted him to know how I felt,” Grandizio said.
A classy move, yes, but it will still take some time for Ferrari and his C-H teammates to get over this loss. They don’t come any more gut-wrenching.
The Bucs took a 1-0 lead only seven pitches into the game and protected the slimmest of advantages for the game’s first 41 outs. Despite a masterful four-hitter by Ferrari that included eight strikeouts, the game’s 42nd out – the last one in the bottom of the seventh -- was never recorded.
“We have no regrets,” C-H coach Adam Petras said. “There are games you look back on and say an error or something here cost us this or that. But this was just a great baseball game. It was a classic pitchers’ duel. This one is going to hurt awhile.”
C-H (12-8) took the 1-0 lead when Doug DiNardo led off the game with a double off winning pitcher and Lafayette University recruit Coleman Strohm, then came around to score on Kaleb Susko’s bad-hop single off the glove of shortstop Paul McCullough.
From that point, Strohm and Ferrari dominated, even with a strong wind blowing out to center field that would suggest a good day for hitters. Ferrari did walk five batters, but he worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth by striking out Chuck Calabrese and Morgan Dively. A junior right-hander, Ferrari worked low in the strike zone and allowed only five balls to leave the infield before Kleindl’s game-winner.
DiNardo (third base) and Susko (shortstop) made several difficult plays on ground balls to help Ferrari keep his shutout intact through six innings.
In the seventh, Scales was hit in the foot by a one-out pitch and stole second base. Sawicki was walked, then McCullough flied out for the second out of the inning as Scales tagged and moved to third base. After Sawicki stole second base uncontested, Kleindl poked a 2-1 pitch to right centerfield, sending SSA (14-7), the No. 14 seed, into next week’s semifinals.
“As soon as he hit the ball, I knew we didn’t have a chance to throw out the guy who was on second base,” Ferrari said. “Looking at the game, I thought we played great. My third baseman and shortstop had my back. My curveball is my best pitch, and it was working for most of the day. I fell behind that last batter, and I knew that was bad. I threw him a fastball to get a strike.”
Strohm threw a five-hitter and struck out nine. The Bucs left runners on second and third in the sixth, and Miles Williamson was stranded after his two-out double in the seventh.
“That was a great game,” Petras said. “We have nothing to look back and wish we should have done differently. No regrets.”