After sitting on a bus for a combined eight hours as they traveled to and from their PIAA Class AA first-round baseball games Monday, Shady Side Academy and Quaker Valley will at least get to stay closer to home today.
The Quakers and Indians will meet at 2 p.m. today in a PIAA Class AA quarterfinal at Fox Chapel after both came back winners from their long trips in their first-round state tournament games.
"That was brutal," Quaker Valley coach Todd Goble said about his team's bus ride to Erie Monday.
The Quakers (22-1) jumped out to a 6-2 lead before holding on for a 6-5 victory against Saegertown, which beat Shady Side Academy in the first round of the state tournament last season.
Goble said the fact that his team was able to take the lead early was a big plus for his players, who had never played in a state baseball tournament game prior to Monday.
"It made them feel like they belonged and feel like they could play with these teams," Goble said.
This whole postseason has been a new experience for the Quakers, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Meanwhile, the Indians (16-8) got the state tournament experience last season and it helped them in their 3-1, extra-inning victory against Blairsville in Homer City.
"No question that [experience] helped," Shady Side Academy coach Bob Grandizio said. "We talked about that on the [one-and-a-half-hour] ride over to the game. We were more confident and knew what to expect from the teams we were going to face."
The Indians got seven strong innings from Paul McCullough, who gave up three hits and zero earned runs while striking out seven.
He got the victory when Chris Sawicki and Evan Eisner each had RBI singles in the top of the eighth inning to go up, 3-1.
McCullough had to be replaced in the eighth inning as he reached his innings limit for the week. But Coleman Strohm recorded the final three outs for the save.
Strohm, a 6-foot-2 senior, will get the start today against the Quakers.
"He's wanted to get more starts and we're confident in him," Grandizio said. "And we have two or three other guys who can come in if needed on the mound. We have good depth there."
As of late Monday night, Goble said he wasn't sure whom the Quakers would start on the hill.
Both of Quaker Valley's top pitchers, Tyler Garbee and Jake Pilewicz, pitched multiple innings against Saegertown.
The winner of the Quaker Valley-Shady Side Academy game could play Beaver in the semifinals. The Bobcats face Mount Union in another PIAA Class AA quarterfinal today.
Both the Indians and Quakers lost to Beaver in the WPIAL tournament. For the Quakers, it was their only defeat of the season.
Revenge isn't on their minds right now, however.
"There wasn't one word about Beaver on the two-and-a-half-hour ride home," Goble said. "Shady Side is a very good team and we have to focus just on them."
Grandizio knows his team will be in for a battle today as well.
"You don't accomplish what they did in the regular season and playoffs -- not losing a game until the finals -- by being an average team," Grandizio said. "They're a very good team."