PIAA baseball: Riverside paints title picture again

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Dan Oliastro was playing director of Riverside's team picture Friday after the PIAA Class AA baseball championship. "Juniors and seniors in front," he commanded in front of a dugout.

Then Riverside's coach moved a few players.

"Make sure you stand in the space between each other," he said before joining the group.

Oliastro knew just how the championship picture should look. Then again, his Panthers are used to saying "cheese."

No school in the history of Pennsylvania high school baseball has taken so many PIAA championship team pictures.

Riverside came back from an early three-run deficit and defeated Pine Grove, 5-4, to win the PIAA Class AA title on Penn State's Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Riverside became the first school to win four titles.

After the game, two Riverside players doused Oliastro with a water cooler shower.

"Wow, that's cold," Oliastro said.

But Oliastro should be used to the feeling. He has been the coach of all four championship teams. This is the second time the Panthers have won back-to-back championships, the first in '05 and '06.

"Somebody asked me when I was going to retire," Oliastro, 68, said.

"That's really not a good question for me. I really believe this is what I'm supposed to be doing. I enjoy working with kids and I love coaching baseball. I love what I'm doing."

And Oliastro loved what Rob Hardy did against Pine Grove (23-7), the District 11 champion from Schuylkill County. Hardy pitched seven innings in the semifinals Monday. He has pitched on only three days of rest a few times before "and it has been a problem," Oliastro said.

When Pine Grove jumped to a 3-0 lead in the top of the second against Riverside starter Blaise McCarty, Oliastro didn't hesitate to call on Hardy again. Hardy, a senior right-hander and one of three seniors on the team, entered the game with two outs and runners on first and second. After a walk, he got a strikeout to end the inning, and allowed only two hits the rest of the way to pick up the final win of his high school career. He struck out seven.

Hardy wasn't overpowering. Though he labored at times with four walks, he was certainly successful, allowing only one run. He threw 97 pitches and finished 8-3.

"I was actually surprised at how good my arm felt," Hardy said. "Normally, on three days rest, I'm not able to pitch. Coach asked me if I wanted to start, but I told him Blaise was fresher.

"Coach had faith in me. I was just glad I was able to stick it out."

Oliastro had hoped McCarty could pitch five innings, "but it just wasn't his day," Oliastro said.

It was another good day for Riverside's Tyler Falk. He delivered a winning home run in the quarterfinals eight days earlier. This time, Falk smacked a two-run triple to center field in the fourth to put Riverside (22-6) ahead for good.

Sophomore Jared McCabe started for Pine Grove and pitched 52/3 innings. The bottom of Riverside's lineup came through with some key hits against McCabe. In the second, No. 8 hitter Tyler Whitlatch had an RBI single.

In the fourth, No. 9 hitter Andy Meneice had his second single of the game and it brought home a run to make it 3-2. Devin Kelosky reached on an error and Dylan Jones' infield hit drove home a run to tie the score, 3-3.

Then Falk delivered a two-run triple.

"This is a claw team," Oliastro said. "We've had to claw our way all season. Last year, we had 27 home runs, but had only three seniors back. This is not a home run hitting team and we knew we had to do stuff the hard way this year."

Hardy said "no one" expected Riverside to win a PIAA title this season because of its inexperience. But there are the 44 seasons Oliastro has spent coaching Riverside. After the game, a reporter asked Oliastro his age.

"I'm 38," Oliastro deadpanned.


For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1975. @mwhiteburgh. First Published June 16, 2012 4:00 AM


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