Jonathan Spina had one of his hottest days on an afternoon more suited for ice fishing in Anchorage than baseball.
The junior left-handed pitcher from Washington High School befuddled Beth-Center with his 78 mph fastball and looping curve, 57 pitches in all, during a 9-0, complete-game victory in the Section 3-AA opener for both teams Monday.
Spina also sprayed three base hits in five at-bats into the outfield at Consol Energy Park, drove in three runs and scored a run.
“In the bullpen, I felt it was going to be a good day,” said Spina. “All my pitches were working.”
So was the Washington defense, which made some spectacular plays behind Spina, none better than Lincoln Key’s snag of a line drive by Dom Welsh just wide of the first base bag.
“I’m a groundball pitcher, and the defense made some great plays behind me,” said Spina. “I have a lot of confidence in them.”
This team effort was in contrast to a season-opening 10-1 loss at Neshannock last Friday in a game where not much went right.
“We had a couple days off after that game, and everyone came back better,” said Wash High coach Rocky Plassio. “Everything was better.”
Spina was only in trouble once, with two on and two out in the fourth inning, but he got Matt Riggle to ground to third, where Connor Bedillion made a smooth pickup and accurate throw to end the threat. That seemed to spur Spina, who retired the final 10 batters of the game to finish his three-hitter.
“Location is a big key for him,” said Plassio of Spina. “He was getting ahead of the batters, he threw his curve where he wanted, and was really locked onto the batter. He’s our best pitcher, and we knew that going in.”
Spina keeps busy throughout the year. He is the quarterback of the football team, plays guard on the basketball team and spends summers working through a 50-game schedule for the Steel City Stars team in Green Tree.
Last year, the 5-8, 150-pounder went 6-3 with a 2.55 ERA to help the Prexies tie Brownsville for the section title with a 10-4 record. It was a short stay in the WPIAL playoffs, a 1-0 loss to Laurel in the first round.
“I fell off at the end of last season,” said Spina. “I wasn’t used to all those innings.”
When Spina is not on the mound, he is in center field as Plassio wants to take advantage of his speed and arm strength. But there is no doubt, Spina is most valuable on the mound.
“I feel good when he goes out to pitch,” said Plassio.
“Baseball is his love. It’s his thing. He has a lot of confidence in himself. He just needs to get stronger.”
Jordan West went 3-for-5 for Wash High, which had 14 hits.
Beth-Center was playing its first game of any type – scrimmages included – and it showed. The Bulldogs made eight errors, with six coming in the first three innings. Still, head coach Frank Pryor saw some positives.
“They beat us (15-0) at this time last year,” he said. “We were excited to play them. I’d like to do this the next couple of years if we could. We had some nerves, but we got the bat on some balls. We tried, but it was not our best game.”