Last year, California mustered one run in losing in the semifinals. After beating Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in the quarterfinals this season with just two runs, coach Nick Damico wondered where his offense had disappeared to in the postseason.
Damico can put a halt to his search after the top-seeded Trojans (19-0) advanced to the Class A championship game with a 16-5 win Monday against No. 13 Sewickley Academy (9-6) at Washington & Jefferson's Ross Memorial Park.
"We don't look at last year," Damico said. "We didn't hit very well last game and we had to put a spark into it in practice. They hit the baseball today.
The Trojans wasted no time jumping on the Panthers starter Sam Duerr, scoring three runs in the top of the first.
California's big inning came in the second when seven runners scored on three hits. Duerr continued to struggle, allowing a run to score on a hit batsman, two more on wild pitches and another on an error.
California's ace, Josh Luko (9-0), received more than enough help, going two innings, allowing one run on four hits and two strikeouts.
"Josh isn't a four-day guy," Damico said. "He needs his rest and, if we got him runs, we were going to get him out of the game.
With Luko out, Sewickley cut the deficit to 12-5, but the lead proved to be too large, as California triggered the 10-run rule in the top of the sixth with four runs. The Trojans recorded a season-high 18 hits, including a perfect 5-for-5 day from leadoff hitter Jake Columbus, who also scored three runs, had two RBIs and stole a base.
Other Class A semifinal
■ Carmichaels 9, Riverview 0: Next week will have a familiar feeling to it as No. 10 Carmichaels joined Section 1 rival California in the final after beating No. 11 Riverview.
"I am very excited about playing them," Carmichaels head coach Scott VanSickle said. "[Coach Nick Damico] is one of my best friends."
The Mighty Mikes lost twice to the Trojans this year.
Carmichaels (14-2) received one of the most dominating pitching performances this season from Brandon Lawless, who went the distance, giving up two hits and striking out seven. At one point. Lawless retired 15 consecutive batters.
"Brandon pitched a great game," VanSickle said. "That is what we have been waiting for. He pounded the zone."
Riverview (14-5) will play Sewickley Academy for the right to advance to the PIAA playoffs.
Class AAA quarterfinals
■ Hampton 6, Knoch 2: David Cricks allowed two runs on two hits while striking out eight in six innings to lead the third-seeded Talbots (13-7) to a win against the 11th-seeded Knights (8-9) at North Allegheny. Matt Donnelly went 2 for 2 with three RBIs for Hampton, which will face West Allegheny in the semifinals Friday at West Mifflin.