There is little difference between the North Allegheny and Seneca Valley baseball teams. Seneca Valley won two regular-season games by a run each time.
The difference in the rubber match was again small -- North Allegheny's smallball.
North Allegheny is getting good at the smallball concept and it helped the Tigers knock off Seneca Valley, 4-2, in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship at Consol Energy Park.
North Allegheny (20-4) had only six hits and one extra base hit.
The difference in the game was a two-run fifth inning when three consecutive bunts led to both runs. The bunts were by North Allegheny's No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters.
This came after a semifinal victory when North Allegheny had only six hits -- all singles -- and four sacrifice bunts.
"We start eight seniors and they wanted to go out champions," said North Allegheny coach Andy Maddix.
"I think they knew they would be better as a group than individuals and they did buy in [to playing smallball]."
The win put North Allegheny into the WPIAL's seventh heaven. It was North Allegheny's seventh title, which ties Allegheny and McKeesport for the most in WPIAL history.
North Allegheny also kept Seneca Valley (18-4) from making history as the Raiders were trying to become only the third team to win three consecutive titles.
"If we play them 10 times, they probably beat us more often than not," Maddix said. "I have all the respect in the world for their program. ... I think there is respect on both sides of the field and we know it's going to be a great ballgame every time we play them."
North Allegheny's Brandon Bergstrom had two hits, including a double and played tremendous defense at shortstop. Mitch Machi pitched 61/3 innings for the Tigers and lifted his record to 7-0.
It was the third playoff win for Machi.
Seneca Valley pitcher Connor Coward (7-1) suffered his first loss of the season.
North Allegheny used the smallball to the maximum in the fifth inning, leading to two big runs. Bergstrom led off with a double. James Meeker bunted, and Seneca Valley made a play on Bergstrom. But Bergstrom got back into second safely.
Matt Waugaman followed with a bunt, but catcher Brad Gresock threw wildly to first base, allowing Bergstrom to score.
That brought up cleanup hitter Jim Divosevic, but Maddix stuck to the "smallball."
Divosevic laid down a nice squeeze bunt, allowing Meeker to score to make it 4-1.
"I think we just have a selfless group," Maddix said. "Jim Divosevic is batting fourth, but it doesn't matter. He just wants to win.
"He had struggled against Coward with curveballs so he bunted. I think that just epitomizes this whole group."
Seneca Valley took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Zach Spangler's sacrifice fly scored Carson Kessler, who had doubled.
North Allegheny came back and took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Machi swung at strike three. But the ball bounced away from catcher Brad Gresock, and Machi made it to first safely to load the bases.
Bergstrom then walked on five pitches to bring home a run and tie the score, 1-1. Coward then balked, allowing Zach Woloszyk to score.
Seneca Valley scored once in the sixth. With one out in the seventh, the Raiders got two singles. Jason Monper came on for Machi and got two strikeouts to end the game.