In moving one step closer to WPIAL history, the heart of the Seneca Valley baseball team was, of all things, a Coward.
Connor Coward, a junior right-hander, showed no fear against Bethel Park in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal Wednesday at Shaler's Matulevic Field. He challenged Bethel Park with a good fastball, kept the Black Hawks off balance with an excellent curve and fooled them with a solid changeup.
In short, everything worked as he tossed a one-hitter in a 2-0 Seneca Valley victory.
The win puts Seneca Valley (17-3) into the semifinals next week and puts the Raiders two wins away from becoming only the third team in WPIAL history to win three consecutive championships.
"I'd have to say honestly that this game and the first North Allegheny game I pitched were my two best games," Coward said. "Everything worked in this game -- my changeup, fastball and curveball. So maybe this was my best game."
Coward struck out seven, walked one and hit one batter. Bethel Park's only hit was by David Lemley in the second inning.
Coward is 7-0 with an ERA under 2.00. When Seneca Valley won its second consecutive WPIAL title a year ago, Coward played left field.
"You could see him developing during conditioning in January and February," Seneca Valley coach Eric Semega said. "But I didn't know he'd be as effective as he is."
Bethel Park (17-5) got a solid performance from left-hander Tyler Grashoff, who gave up seven hits and struck out five. Seneca Valley scored both of its runs with two outs in the third. With one out, Brad Gresock was hit by a pitch. After a flyout, Carson Kessler singled to right. A throw from the outfield to third was off target, and Kessler moved to second base.
Second baseman Gianpaul Gonzalez then singled up the middle to drive in two runs.
It was all Coward needed as he retired 10 in a row to end the game.
"He's the best pitcher we faced all year," Bethel Park coach Tony Fisher said. "He competed, threw strikes and had confidence in all his pitches. But credit his defense, too. It's not like we were striking out a lot, but his defense made some good plays."