McKEES ROCKS – At least the Avella High School baseball team can be thankful that it was not its counterpart from Uniontown.
The Eagles had a much shorter drive from Avella to the Burkett Complex for their playoff game Monday against Western Beaver. Uniontown, which was supposed to play Blackhawk here, spent nearly two hours on a bus.
The Red Raiders then arrived at the field, took a restroom break and turned around and drove two more hours back home.
Avella also could have been in the situation the teams from Vincentian Academy and Union now find themselves in, tied 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth inning and forced to resume their game today without the benefit of having their top pitchers available.
Heavy rains and lightning caused the postponement of the final two playoff games at Burkett in the opening round of the WPIAL playoffs, while the Vincentian-Union game was suspended.
And it only took the WPIAL about three hours to come to the decision to shut things down.
After keeping Vincentian and Union around through two lightning delays and a downpour, the decision was made at about 4:30 p.m. to send those teams home and cancel the Uniontown-Blackhawk game. It was announced that the Avella-Western Beaver game would be played at 7 p.m., apparently since both of those teams were already on site.
“(I was) definitely a little surprised,” said Avella baseball coach Jason Fogg, who guided the Eagles to a third-place finish in Section 1-A behind powerhouses California and Carmichaels. “I thought they would have the Union and Vincentian guys hang around because that was a suspension. Now, the pitchers can’t pitch anymore. I thought they’d just send us home and possibly put Uniontown and Blackhawk in the 7 o’clock slot since Uniontown was already en route. That’s pretty tough on them. That’s the joys of playing baseball in the spring in Western Pennsylvania.”
So the Eagles waited around, finally heading to a soccer field beyond the left-field fence to play a game of whiffle ball, while Western Beaver’s coaches decided to take their team to a local restaurant.
Finally, at 6 p.m., the WPIAL made the decision to postpone the games and play them today.
Avella will now face Western Beaver, the defending WPIAL Class A champion and No. 2 seed in this year’s tournament, at 6 p.m. today at the Burkett Complex.
The games at Burkett weren’t the only rainouts in the WPIAL. Ten games were either suspended or postponed.
South Fayette’s Class AAA playoff game against West Mifflin, originally slated to be played at Upper St. Clair, was rescheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start today at Washington & Jefferson’s Ross Memorial Park. Monessen’s Class A playoff game against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart will be at the same site at 4 p.m.
The WPIAL will then hold its Class A and Class AAA quarterfinal games Wednesday, so that teams that played Monday would not have a pitching advantage over opponents who were forced to play today.
Monday’s postponements also have forced the WPIAL to reschedule the Class AAAA and Class AA first-round games, which were originally scheduled for today, to Thursday. Quarterfinals in those classifications will be Friday or Saturday, depending on when participating schools have their respective proms.
For example, Canon-McMillan, which plays No. 3 seed North Allegheny Thursday at a site and time to be determined, will likely play Saturday if it wins because the school’s prom is Friday night.
“I’m going to be a bear about that,” said Big Macs coach Frank Zebrasky. “They make those kids stay on site for the prom. That’s going to be tough playing on Saturday.”
Of course, all of this is contingent upon cooperative weather. Given today’s forecast of showers, things don’t look promising.
For Avella, which is in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, it will all be worth the wait when they finally play.
“Actually, I think we got a pretty good setup,” Fogg said. “Coming from what I think is the toughest section in Class A, we saw California, they’re the No. 1 (seed), Carmichaels is a close No. 2. They had that game down at Carmichaels (against California) in hand until a tough seventh inning. We played a lot of good teams, and I think that prepared us well for this game.
“You’ve got to win this one. We’ll throw our top two right at them. We’ll worry about (the second) one later.”