North Xtra: Seneca Valley baseball can't get past rival

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When a district high school baseball player sees his career end, there's a small chance he was lucky enough to make it to a WPIAL championship game.

Getting there twice is very rare.

As for three times?

Only a select few can make that claim.

Well, some of those "three-timers" donned Seneca Valley baseball uniforms this season.

It was yet another successful season for Seneca Valley, which made it to the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game for the third year a row. Unlike the previous two seasons, the Raiders fell short in the title game.

Last Friday, the Raiders saw their season end with a loss to archrival North Allegheny in the PIAA quarterfinals.

Seneca Valley seniors Sam Fragale, Zach Spangler, Brad Gresock, Jon Dorogy, Carson Keller and Jason Martin played on all three championship teams. Fellow seniors Steve Driscoll and Zach Bredl played on the last two.

Raiders coach Eric Semega was quick to point out the successful run those players had when talking to them after their final game.

"Obviously, to be able to get [to the WPIAL championship game] three times is something not a lot of people have ever experienced," Semega said. "We were obviously disappointed in not moving forward [in the season]. I told them when it was all said and done, they'll realize that what they've brought to this program and what they have accomplished, they should be very proud of."

The senior class went a stellar 55-14-1 combined for the past three seasons, winning a section title all three years. In 2011, they were 18-4-1 and beat Peters Township in the WPIAL championship game. In 2012, they were 18-5 and topped Mt. Lebanon for the WPIAL championship.

This season, they finished 19-5 -- including 10-0 in Section 1 -- before falling to North Allegheny in the WPIAL title game.

Coming off consecutive titles and having many of its top players back, expectations were understandably high for this Seneca Valley team. The Raiders lived up to nearly all of them. The Post-Gazette's No. 1-ranked Class AAAA team in the preseason showcased its impressive talent throughout the spring.

The success was no surprise to the Raiders' coach, who couldn't really pinpoint one moment that summed up what the 2013 Raiders were all about. He said there were countless.

"Just on a day-to-day basis," Semega said. "We never had any doubt we wouldn't give ourselves the opportunity to go deep into the playoffs. We knew we'd have chances to do some things."

Surprisingly, Seneca Valley dropped its first two games of the season, then the Raiders did nothing but win for the next month.

A 15-game winning streak had the Raiders looking like the class of Class AAAA once again. During that run, the Raiders took down section opponent after section opponent, and gained quality non-section triumphs against Hopewell, Hampton and Plum. Their next loss didn't come until May 7, when they dropped a non-section contest to Montour.

The Raiders earned the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs and with it a first-round bye. Led by the outstanding pitching of junior Connor Coward, the Raiders beat Bethel Park, 2-0, in the quarterfinals, and Pine-Richland, 6-0, in the semifinals.

That set up a clash with section foe North Allegheny in the WPIAL final. Seneca Valley had defeated the Tigers twice by 3-2 scores in the regular season. The Raiders were trying to become only the third team in WPIAL history to win three consecutive titles. Instead, NA won, 4-2.

Seneca Valley went on to beat DuBois, 13-6, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. That set up a fourth meeting with North Allegheny, which scored twice in the ninth inning last Friday to gain another 4-2 victory.

"They were two equally matched teams that played four great games," Semega said. "Unfortunately for us, they got the two games that were a little more important."

Seneca Valley, led by a battle-tested senior class, capitalized on plenty of chances this season, something Semega said he hopes they realize.

"They should be very proud of what they accomplished," he said.


First Published June 13, 2013 4:00 AM


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