Matt Smith pulled off his own personal version of the triple crown, and Seneca Valley was crowned champions again.
Seneca Valley played three games in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs over the past two weeks and Smith was the winning pitcher in all three. His final victory of the run came Wednesday night as the Raiders defeated Mt. Lebanon, 5-3, in the title game at Consol Energy Park in North Franklin.
It was the second year in a row Smith won the WPIAL final. Last season, he had a big offense behind him as the Raiders routed Peters Township, 15-4. This time, Smith didn't need as much offense. He used a good fastball and some excellent off-speed pitches to hold down a Mt. Lebanon team that had scored 16 runs in three previous playoff games.
Smith finished with a seven-hitter and struck out 10. He took a 5-1 lead into the top of the seventh before Mt. Lebanon scored twice to make it 5-3. After two walks, Smith got Pat Goff to hit into a game-ending double play.
"He's a competitor -- and that's a key word," Seneca Valley coach Eric Semega said of Smith. "You can't say enough about someone who continues to want to compete and want the ball in big games."
Smith is 11-1 this season and 20-2 over the past two years. In three playoff games this season, he has pitched 20 innings, struck out 21 and allowed five earned runs.
It is the fourth year in a row the Class AAAA title will go to a team from the that division's section in the northern suburbs. Besides Seneca Valley winning it the past two seasons, Pine-Richland won in 2010 and North Allegheny in '09.
Seneca Valley (18-4) used an efficient offense against three Mt. Lebanon pitchers. The Raiders had only six hits, but Carson Kessler had two run-scoring singles.
"You talk about an unsung individual on this team," Semega said. "[Kessler] has been hitting through all the playoffs. I told him I was proud of him because last year he had to watch everything as a sophomore. Now, he's a big part of things."
Kessler's RBI single gave Seneca Valley a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second. The run was unearned.
Seneca Valley added another run in the fifth. Connor Coward hit a one-out single and took second when Zach Creedon was hit by a pitch. The runners moved up one base on a fielder's choice, and Coward scored on a wild pitch by reliever Zack Bahm. Mike Duffy started for Mt. Lebanon and lasted 42/3 innings.
But Mt. Lebanon (14-9) sliced the deficit to 2-1 in the fifth. Ian Happ had a leadoff single and scored on Chris Girvin's bloop double down the right-field line. Seneca Valley's Jason Martin made a diving try at the ball, but it bounced away, allowing Happ to score from first.
Smith worked his way out of jams in the first and second, stranding a runner at third both times.
In the fifth, Mt. Lebanon's Luke Hagy got his second hit, a bloop single to right with two outs. He took second on a wild pitch, but Smith got a groundout to end that threat.
Seneca Valley broke the game open with three runs in the sixth. Sam Fragale singled, Austin Bream walked and Martin singled down the right-field line. Kessler got his second RBI single to make it 4-1, and the fifth run scored on an error.
Mt. Lebanon made things interesting in the seventh. Jack Faett singled and scored on a triple by No. 9 hitter Cory Wuenschell. Hagy's sacrifice fly made it 5-3.
Then came the game-ending double play.