CANONSBURG – How long does it take to play a high school baseball game?
In the game between Canon-McMillan and Bethel Park, a matchup to decide which team will earn the third and final playoff spot in Section 5-AAAA, it’s three days and counting.
The Big Macs (5-4, 11-5) and Black Hawks (5-4, 9-7) were supposed to play their decisive section game Saturday, but lightning suspended the game after the top of the first inning. Clouds formed over McDowell Field Monday before the first pitch and during the top of the third inning, play was delayed twice because of lightning before the game was suspended until today at 4:15 p.m. with Canon-McMillan leading 6-3 in the top of the third inning and two outs.
“This is as big a game as you will see,” Bethel Park head coach Tony Fisher said. “From the standpoint of stress, it would have been nice to get this game played on Saturday. The kids are probably more loose and ready for tomorrow than I am.”
Mt. Lebanon (7-2, 10-9) clinched the section title with a 5-0 win over Brashear Monday and Peters Township (7-3, 11-5) grabbed second place with wins over Canon-McMillan Friday and Upper St. Clair Saturday. If the Big Macs complete the season sweep of the Black Hawks today, they will follow the Blue Devils and Indians into the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.
After rain relegated his team to practicing indoors for three days last week, Canon-McMillan head coach Frank Zebrasky is not discouraged by the weather. He was pleased to see how his team responded to a difficult situation.
“It was definitely an exciting game until this happened,” Zebrasky said while pointing toward a layer of pebble-sized hail covering the infield. “We know we are coming to play tomorrow, so it’s not a huge adjustment.”
The Big Macs got off to a good start yesterday in the bottom of the first inning. Three straight Canon-McMillan players reached safely, starting with a lead-off single from junior left fielder Chandler Palyas. Senior center fielder Teagan Piechnick followed with a single to left and junior right fielder Jared Beach drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases.
Sophomore first baseman Tanner Piechnick hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Palyas, senior pitcher Zach Pollack hit an RBI single to left and Beach scored on a throwing error to give the Big Macs an early 3-0 lead.
Canon-McMillan added three more runs in the second on an RBI from Beach and senior third baseman Trevor Schreckengost, and a dropped fly ball in center field gave the Big Macs a six-run advantage. The Black Hawks committed three errors and allowed five hits in the first two innings to give Canon-McMilan the momentum it desperately needed after losing to Peters Township Friday.
Bethel Park answered in the third inning by drawing two straight walks with one out and senior first baseman Harry Siwik hit an RBI single to right field. Pollack, who received his first start on the mound in almost two years, hit the following batter with an off-speed pitch and sophomore left fielder Tylar Shoemaker hit a two-run single to draw Bethel Park to within three before play was suspended for the first time.
Bethel Park will be at bat when the game is resumed today with runners on first and third and two outs.
After a one-hour delay, the players took the field to resume play, but before a pitch was thrown, a roaring crash of thunder occurred and hail began to fall as the umpires decided to call it quits.
“We know we only batted twice and we took advantage of some of their mistakes,” Zebrasky said. “They got some nice hits in that third inning, so we’ll just have to go back at it tomorrow.”
With a forecast predicting sunny skies and temperatures in the high-60s, Canon-McMillan is hoping to finally clinch its playoff berth against Bethel Park.
“This is a playoff game,” Zebrasky said. “Momentum is everything in a game like this, and we had every bit of it before the third inning. We need to seize momentum again and get out of the third inning.”