High school baseball roundup: Seneca Valley storms into state semifinals

Seneca Valley coach Eric Semega has insisted that timely hitting has been one of the big reasons for the team's playoff run. But never mind the timely hitting Thursday against DuBois.

Seneca Valley simply hit time after time.

Putting on one of its best offensive displays in a while, Seneca Valley breezed to an 8-0 victory against DuBois in a PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal at Slippery Rock University's Jack Critchfield Park.

Seneca Valley banged 12 hits off two DuBois pitchers, and the eight runs were the most for the Raiders since scoring 10 in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs against Hempfield. It was only the third time in the past 12 games the Raiders scored a half dozen runs, and the eight-run difference was the most-lopsided win for Semega's team.

Coupled with another impressive pitching performance from Connor Coward, the Raiders overwhelmed DuBois (19-4), the District 9 champ.

The win put Seneca Valley (12-11) into the semifinals Monday and added another chapter to one of the biggest turnarounds in WPIAL baseball history. Seneca Valley made the WPIAL playoffs with a 6-11 record, became the first team to win a WPIAL title with a losing record and now finds itself one game away from the PIAA title game.

"I don't know if I can explain how we feel right now," said Seneca Valley right fielder Vince Augustine. "But it's a contagious thing. We just keep rolling."

Augustine had a home run, double and three RBIs against DuBois. John Harper had three singles, Coward had two hits and three RBIs, and Matt Rafferty was 2 for 3.

"That was one of our better hitting games," said Augustine. "We got hits and got them when we needed them. Some walks helped, too."

Seneca Valley had at least two hits in every inning but one.

"We had four or five hits that weren't hard hits, but they had pitchers who had a lot of off-speed stuff and movement," Semega said. "We had some good, hard hits, too."

Coward's right arm played a role in the win for the fifth consecutive game. He was the winning pitcher in the WPIAL quarterfinals, semifinals and title game, and he got a save in the first round of the PIAA playoffs Monday. He pitched only one inning in the regular season because of a back injury.

Against DuBois, Coward pitched a five-hitter and struck out eight. He shut out a team that had a .405 batting average and had scored at least six runs in nine consecutive games.

Seneca Valley jumped on DuBois starter Ben Hayes for three runs in the first. Rafferty drove home the first run with a sacrifice fly and Augustine followed with a three-run homer to left field. Harper drove in a run with a single in the second to make it 4-0.

Coward had a two-run single in the fourth. In the sixth, Augustine doubled home a run and Coward hit a sacrifice fly.

"I think it's a confidence thing with the hitting right now," said Semega. "When they go up there now, they feel like they are going to put good swings on the ball no matter who they are facing. Then, the confidence becomes contagious.

"Right now, these guys are feeling their oats pretty well and deservedly so because they have played very well the past six games, for sure."

Class A

■ Elk County Catholic 10, Carmichaels 0: WPIAL runner-up Carmichaels was no match for undefeated Elk County Catholic as the Crusaders ran their record to 24-0 with a win at Slippery Rock University. The game was stopped after five innings because of the 10-run rule.

Carmichaels ace Brandon Lawless pitched Monday in the first round, and the Mikes are a different team when he doesn't pitch. It showed. Elk County Catholic, the District 9 champion, had 13 hits off three Carmichaels pitchers -- Ryan Zalar, Billy Bowlen and Jacob Kinsell. Elk County Catholic scored five runs in the second to take control of the game. The Crusaders scored three more in the third and two in the fifth.

Four Elk County Catholic players had two hits while Carmichaels had only two hits. Ryan Childs pitched the first two innings for Elk County Catholic and gave up both hits. No. 1 pitcher Brandon Schlimm worked the final three innings and struck out three.

Carmichaels finished 15-4. The other three losses were against California.

For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.

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