Baldwin reaches first WPIAL Class AAAA baseball title game

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After striking out in his previous plate appearance, Morgan Schmitt took a simple approach in his next at-bat.

"I just wanted to sit back and drive it up the middle," Schmitt said.

Schmitt proceeded to help drive Baldwin to its first WPIAL baseball championship game.

Schmitt smacked a two-run home run in the fourth inning, helping Baldwin bust open a one-run game on its way to a 10-2 win against Moon in a WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal Thursday at Burkett Complex in Robinson.

Baldwin (16-2), the No. 2 seed, will make its championship debut Tuesday or Wednesday when it takes on No. 16 Seneca Valley at Consol Energy Park in North Franklin, Washington County.

The win continued what has been a remarkable turnaround for Baldwin, which went 5-12 last season.

"They came out this year with a purpose. I'm just trying not to screw it up," coach Dan Caponi joked.

Baldwin batted around in the bottom of the first, racing to a 3-0 lead. But No. 11 Moon (15-4) began to chip away, scoring a run in the second and one in the third.

That turned out to be Moon's final run of the game, however. Baldwin began to pull away in the fourth, with Schmitt providing the big blow. With one out, Nick Bernick walked, and Schmitt followed with his second home run of the season to surge Baldwin ahead, 5-2.

"I definitely think it was a big relief," said Schmitt, a junior and the team's No. 2 hitter. "When you hit a homer, everyone just gets excited. It's bigger than just a regular double. A homer is a homer. It's just like a dunk in basketball. It's a big play."

Schmitt and his teammates went on to slam dunk Moon. Pinch-hitter Tony Martinez had a two-run single in the fifth. An inning later, Alex Pantuso hit an RBI single and Dylan Finnochi added a two-run single.

Seven Baldwin players had RBIs. In the first, Chris Eisel produced an RBI single and Jordan Gitzen and Zach Murray drew bases-loaded walks.

For Moon, Rocco Maue singled in a run and Brian Casper had an RBI groundout.

Baldwin's offensive outburst helped out Pantuso, the team's pitching ace who was not at his best. Coming into the game, Pantuso had 67 strikeouts and only four walks. Against Moon, he walked four, hit a batter, allowed seven hits and struck out just one.

But Pantuso finished strong, shutting out Moon the final four innings to improve to 6-1.

Baldwin has given up only 13 runs while winning seven in a row.

Moon pitcher Nick Rozzo (6-1) suffered his first loss after allowing five runs, four hits and five walks in four innings.

Other semifinal

Seneca Valley 5, Pine Richland 4: Seneca Valley (9-11) advanced to the title game for the fourth year in a row with the win at Pullman Park in Butler. The Raiders are believed to be the first team in WPIAL history to accomplish the feat. After going 6-11 in the regular season, Seneca Valley won again, courtesy of Vince Augustine's two-run double in the third that put the Raiders ahead, 5-2. Augustine has eight RBIs in the playoffs. Connor Coward was the winning pitcher. Nick Roth hit a two-run inside-the-park home run for No. 4 Pine-Richland (17-6), which also lost to Seneca Valley in last year's semifinals.


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