MT. PLEASANT – In the past, a high school baseball coach had fewer things to worry about when it came to playing games.
Scouting a team here and there, finding the proper motivational tool, then unleashing your star pitcher on the unsuspecting opponent used to be good enough to get a team deep into the playoffs.
Now, it’s more complicated with inning counts, the weather and unusual scheduling patterns becoming more important.
Maybe that’s why Carmichaels head coach Scott Van Sickle didn’t mind the rain storm that pilfered the field at Mt. Pleasant High School Monday afternoon.
The seemingly unending rainstorms this spring left the field like it has dozens of others, a mess, and forced the cancellation of the 4:30 p.m. game between Laurel Highlands and West Allegheny.
Van Sickle was happy because not only did his team have the 2 p.m. game, but it was played in relatively good weather, ended in a 10-2 victory by Carmichaels over Springdale and moved the Mikes on to the second round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs Wednesday against the winner of the game between Western Beaver and Avella.
Best of all, Van Sickle was able to manipulate his pitching staff so that all the arms can be available for some use in the next round, quite a feat considering the weather.
“That was our plan,” said Van Sickle of using starter Brandon Lawless for three innings, reliever Cory Fuller for 2 1/3 and closer Bill Bowlen for the final four outs.
“We were snakebit before like that. Sometimes, it’s a roll of the dice, but we came out of it with every pitcher able to go.”
Carmichaels came into the tournament as the runner-up to California in Section 1 with a 12-2 record and the seventh seed. Springdale was the lower seed at 10, despite being co-champion with North Catholic. The Dynamos’ 9-8 record had something to do with that.
Van Sickle was betting the Mikes, even playing reasonably well, could dispose of Springdale without using up his pitching.
He was right.
Springdale self-destructed from the very first inning, committing six errors overall, allowing four unearned runs and playing a technically flawed game that included throwing to the wrong base three times in a fourth inning that produced four runs and an 8-2 lead for the Mikes.
“That was the No. 1 thing in the game,” said Springdale coach Randy Eaton, who has seen the Dynamos go one-and-out in the last three playoffs. “We made – what? – six errors. We gave them unearned runs, we dropped fly balls and we didn’t know what base to throw to.”
The fourth inning was the best example of the Dynamos futility. With one out in the inning, Springdale starter Alex Demonte hit Brennen McMinn with a pitch. McMinn moved to second on one of two passed balls in the game by catcher Mike Banachowski. Ryan Zalar got on when third baseman Dante Mahlmeister committed one of his three errors in the game. That allowed McMinn to score. One out later, Ty Cole hit a grounder to shortstop Alex Pane for what should have been the third out. But Pane couldn’t pick it up, Cole got on and Zalar scored on the error. Then, Cole moved to second on a wild pitch.
Bill Bowlen slapped a single to right and went to second when Zach Simic threw home, trying to get Cole. Joel Spishock singled in Bowlen with a shot to center and went to second when Adam Lock threw home.
And so it went.
Van Sickle became keenly aware of how weather can affect a rotation when the Mikes made three trips to Avella to attempt to play a regular season game only to have it rained out the first two times.
“When it rains, you have to be mentally strong,” Van Sickle said. “We have a bunch of seniors who have been through this before. It doesn’t matter because every other team is dealing with it, too.”
Carmichaels made it 3-0 in the first, taking advantage of an error, a hit batter and a two-run single by Lawless.
Another run scored in the third on a Mahlmeister error to make it 4-1 and the game was put away with the outburst in the fourth. The Mikes added two runs in the sixth, the first coming on a heads-up play by Mike Blasinsky, who was on third base when Bowlen struck out. Banachowski dropped the ball and had to throw to first to get Bowlen for the second out. While he did, Blasinsky raced him on the throw to first.
“We’ll take any runs we can get,” Van Sickle said. “We made our share of errors mentally, but I was satisfied with the game.”