Carmichaels head baseball coach Scott Van Sickle will finally get the rematch he wanted.
That rematch is not exactly the third meeting this season with section rival California, this time in the WPIAL Class A championship game. Rather, it is with the Trojans’ first-year head coach Nick Damico. The two were rommates years ago at California University and their rivalry started with a video game.
“He always beat me in Nintendo,” Van Sickle said of Damico. “He was a dirty player, too. I’m definitely going to enjoy this.”
Van Sickle got his rematch when Carmichaels, led by senior pitcher Brandon Lawless’ complete-game shutout, defeated Riverview, 9-0, in a Class A semifinals Monday night at Washington & Jefferson’s Ross Memorial Park.
The victory puts the Mikes in the Class A title game against California on May 27 at Consol Energy Park at a time to be determined
Lawless, who allowed three baserunners in the first two innings, was dominant the rest of the way as he retired 15 straight and struck out seven.
“(Lawless) is like a little brother to me,” Van Sickle said. “He’s a baller. I don’t know what it was tonight, but he was dominant. Every pitch he threw looked perfect. He was upset after that last game because he didn’t think he had his best stuff. I guess he decided to take it out on Riverview tonight.”
While Carmichaels’ offense aided Lawless’ bid for a second playoff win in less than a week, the senior can thank Riverview’s defense for committing seven errors that gave the Mikes help.
Carmichaels senior Ryan Zalar reached first base with one out in the first inning on a dropped fly ball by Riverview third baseman Dom Conte. Mikes junior Michael Blasinsky followed with a single to right field and senior shortstop Ty Cole walked to load the bases.
Sophomore third baseman Billy Bowlen recorded an RBI three pitches later, when he was hit with an inside fastball on the elbow. Freshman designated hitter Joel Spishock walked to drive in one more run before Riverview pitcher Nick DiBucci induced two groundouts to end the inning.
The Mikes scored two more runs in the third on RBI-singles by Bowlen and senior Justin Newman to take a 4-0 lead.
“We are getting better as the season has gone on,” Van Sickle said. “I didn’t see that killer instinct that I’d like to see, where we step on our opponent’s throat and not allow them to come back. We showed that in our last few games when we just kept hitting them while they were down.”
Three more errors by Riverview in the top of the fourth gave Carmichaels two runs on just one hit, and a mishandled ground ball at third base scored an additional run in the fifth as the Mikes took a 5-0 lead.
The Riverview blunders did not stop there.
Carmichaels scored two runs on one hit in the seventh to pull away.
The Mikes took a 9-0 lead they would not relinquish, in large part because of Lawless’ dominance on the mound. Using a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a curveball and a sweeping slider, Lawless did not allow a hit to the outfield until a single in the seventh inning.
“Every pitch was breaking early and perfectly for me,” Lawless said. “It took me a bit to get into a groove, but once I did, my pitches looked great.”
As his team celebrated, Van Sickle huddled his players and said: “No one thinks you can beat Cal. Go out and prove them wrong.”
After losing both matchups in the regular season, that’s exactly what Lawless is ready to do.
“We’ve been thinking about (Cal) since we lost that last game to them,” Lawless said. “We focused on one team at a time, but we wanted to face them in that title game. We’ve been waiting for them.”