North Allegheny and Seneca Valley staged two thrillers in the regular season and yet another in the WPIAL championship game.
It's no shock the two will play one another again in the PIAA playoffs.
This time, however, the loser will see its season end.
For the fourth time this spring, North Allegheny (21-4) and Seneca Valley (19-4) will square off on the baseball diamond, as the Tigers and Raiders meet at 3 p.m. today in a PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal game at Shaler's Matulevic Field.
The teams advanced with first-round wins Monday. North Allegheny defeated Hempfield Area, 3-1, while Seneca Valley downed DuBois, 13-6.
"We expected they would win," North Allegheny coach Andy Maddix said. "We thought that if we were lucky enough to get through, we hoped to see them again. They're a great team. Hopefully, it will be a great ballgame."
It's been a little more than a week since the previous matchup between the two. In that game, North Allegheny captured its seventh WPIAL title -- tied for most all time -- after edging Seneca Valley, 4-2, last Wednesday at Consol Energy Park. The Raiders had been trying to become only the third team in WPIAL history to win three consecutive titles.
North Allegheny had only six hits, but its "small ball" strategy paid off when three consecutive bunts led to two runs in the fifth inning, giving the Tigers a 4-1 lead. Seneca Valley scored once in the sixth.
In a showdown of ace pitchers, North Allegheny's Mitch Machi outdueled Seneca Valley's Connor Coward.
The triumph served as a bit of revenge for North Allegheny, which lost to Seneca Valley twice by 3-2 scores in the regular season. Seneca Valley won the Section 1 championship and was the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs. North Allegheny finished as runner-up in the section and was the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
North Allegheny faced another familiar foe Monday. The Tigers had defeated Hempfield, 3-0, in the regular season, and then topped the Spartans, 3-0, in the WPIAL semifinals. It was more of the same in the third meeting, with North Allegheny locking down the Hempfield bats and doing just enough on offense to gain some separation.
Winning pitcher Jason Monper allowed one run and four hits to go along with nine strikeouts in seven innings.
The Tigers scored all three of their runs in the first inning, two of them coming on Matt Waugaman's two-run homer.
"He's worked hard," Maddix said. "It's really nice to see him get results for his hard work."
Maddix said he was happy with his team's effort, saying that their ability to stay focused helped keep them away from an illness that sometimes afflicts WPIAL champions in their first-round PIAA games -- a so-called "WPIAL championship hangover."
"I was really proud of our guys," Maddix said. "To play as well as we played in the WPIAL championship, for us to come out focused was great. We came out right away, not only with the runs, but with the way Monper shut them down.
"It was really nice to see them focused. I thought there might be a letdown, but our guys were ready to play."
Meanwhile, Seneca Valley rolled to a first-round victory against District 9 champion DuBois. It was a solid win for the Raiders, who were not only coming off a loss, but also had not won a PIAA game since 2011. The Raiders lost their opening-round game last season. They reached the semifinals a year earlier.
Seneca Valley has been winning games because of its pitching, so the offensive outburst was much welcomed, but somewhat unexpected. The 13 runs matched a season high. The Raiders had not scored more than seven runs in their previous seven games.
Runs will likely be at a premium when Seneca Valley and North Allegheny get together for a fourth time, considering there was a total of 16 runs scored in the first three contests.
This could very well be another thriller, but one thing is for sure -- there won't be a fifth meeting this season.
First Published June 6, 2013 4:00 AM