Poll the roster of the baseball team at Carmichaels, and each player would say this was the game they were waiting for all season.
Western Beaver, the defending WPIAL Class A champion and No. 2 seed in this year’s tournament, handed the Mikes a bitter defeat last year in the quarterfinals.
When the brackets were released for this postseason, the Mikes team knew what it was going to take to not only get a rematch but also avenge last year’s loss.
The pieces fell into place, and when the final out was recorded in Wednesday’s game at Ross Memorial Park, Carmichaels walked away with a dominating 17-8 quarterfinal victory.
The Mikes (13-2) will play Riverview, a 12-10 winner over Union, in the semifinals tentatively set for Monday.
Not even rain, thunder or a 30-minute lightning delay could stop Carmichaels, the runner-up to California in Section 1, from getting revenge for last year’s 6-1 loss.
“We have been talking about Western Beaver for a year,” said Mikes head coach Scott Van Sickle. “It was hard to get over that. We were a couple outs away from the semifinals then. They got the hits, and we didn’t.”
This time, both teams got the hits. Carmichaels simply had more of them. Carmichaels pounded out 13 hits but only one for extra bases, a triple by shortstop Ty Cole that drove in two and gave the Mikes a 12-5 lead after three innings. The Mikes rolled to a 4-0 lead after one inning and erupted for eight runs in the third that all but put the game away.
Starter Brandon Lawless didn’t have one of his better pitching performances, but he drove in four runs and scored twice. Every player in the Mikes’ lineup had at least one hit. Mike Blasinsky went 3-for-4, knocked in a run and scored three times, the final time giving Carmichaels a 14-6 lead after five innings.
Brennen McMinn and Ryan Zalar, the Nos. 1 and 2 hitters, combined to get on base seven out of the 11 at-bats and scored four runs. Tyler Aeschbacher and Justin Newman combined for four sacrifice bunts and another bunt that went for a single from the Nos. 8 and 9 spots.
“Last year, we sent them home,” said Western Beaver head coach Chad Miller. “This year, they sent us home. They are a good team, and they can hit the ball.”
The 17 runs were the most by the Mikes this season and the most since a 19-4 victory over West Greene in April of 2013.
“We learned about (scoring runs) that day against Cal,” said Van Sickle of the 6-5 loss last week. “We talked about how we had no killer instinct. We talked about that a lot.”
Western Beaver opened the season with a loss to South Side Beaver and ended it with this loss. In between, the Golden Beavers won 15 straight.
Van Sickle thought the 30-minute delay for lightning in the top of the fifth inning befitted Carmichaels.
“We knew it was going to be a long game,” he said. “We didn’t care if we had to stay here all night. I thought Brandon settled in after the delay.”
Lawless gave up two runs in the final three innings, but it might have been more had it not been for two outstanding catches in right field by Reed Long in the sixth. The first was a diving snag with a runner at second base for the first out. The second was a last-second lunge in right-center that Ryan Zalar appeared to lose in the gray clouds.
“That was only the second time he has (played) in right field,” said Van Sickle. “He’s been busting his butt at practice.”
Steve Robison took the loss for Western Beaver, not making it out of the third inning.