Seneca Valley's Matt Wagner slides safely into home plate against Moon Monday afternoon.
By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Seneca Valley reached the .500 mark for the season — and now is two wins away from a PIAA championship game.
One phrase might not seem to fit with the other, but in Seneca Valley’s season, there is no normalcy.
Seneca Valley, the team that won a WPIAL title with a losing record, continued its unlikely postseason run and won its first PIAA Class AAAA playoff game Monday afternoon, beating Moon, 4-2, at Kelly Automotive Park in Butler.
Seneca Valley was the only one of four WPIAL champions to win in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The victory lifted Seneca Valley’s record to 11-11. It’s safe to say there has never been a .500 team in the PIAA quarterfinals.
“That’s what it’s all about, playing .500 ball, right?” Seneca Valley coach Eric Semega said with a chuckle.
As strange as this season has been for Seneca Valley, a few more strange chapters were added to the story against Moon. Seneca Valley scored a run in the first inning without a hit and another in the fourth without a hit. And the Raiders won by using a pitcher who hadn’t taken the mound in 31 days. Senior right-hander Alex Hajduk pitched a four-hitter and struck out four to pick up only his second win this season.
The previous time Hajduk pitched was May 2 against Butler.
“The energy we have now is just unbelievable,” Hajduk said. “We have a mentality that we want to prove something. We want to show people that we’re a good team and I think the energy is rallying us.”
Connor Coward was the winning pitcher for Seneca Valley in the past three WPIAL playoff games, and Semega said the reason for turning to Hajduk, who usually plays shortstop, was because “some of his individual outings in the past and what Moon had hitting wise. With his curveball, we thought he could keep them off balance a little bit. He threw it well sometimes and he didn’t throw it well sometimes. But he competed and we made plays for him, no doubt.”
The score was tied, 1-1, after the first, but Seneca Valley took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third when Johnny Brittner and Vince Augustine hit run-scoring doubles.
“We were mentally not playing baseball, which is a big part of this game,” Semega said of a regular season in which Seneca Valley was 6-11. “Physically, our talent is there. Timely hitting is a big part of what’s going on right now. We’re getting timely hitting. But we’re not making mental errors. That’s another big thing.”
Moon made it 3-2 in the fourth on Mason Prickett’s RBI double. Prickett finished 2 for 3.
But Seneca Valley took a two-run advantage in the fourth when Matt Wagner led off with a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a bunt and scored on John Davis’ sacrifice fly off Moon starter Colton Hower, who also gave up a run in the first on a wild pitch. Hower gave up only five hits in the game.
“He’s been good for us the whole playoffs, but he just came out a little wild today,” Moon coach Dom Santeufemio said. “Anytime in baseball, you have to have some luck. The last game we played last week [against Pine-Richland], all the balls were hit right at us. Today, we hit the ball right at the other team. So things even out.”
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