PIAA baseball: Altoona's Wyland survives rocky start
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SOMERSET, Pa. -- Three days after eliminating WPIAL champion Seneca Valley in the first round of the PIAA tournament, Altoona ensured that the state championship trophy would not be coming to Western Pennsylvania.
The Lions ended Mt. Lebanon's season Thursday afternoon with a 6-3 victory against the Blue Devils in the PIAA quarterfinals.
Mt. Lebanon held a 3-1 lead after one inning, but Altoona chipped away and, eventually, took the lead.
Ian Happ got the Blue Devils off to a hot start in the first when he blasted a pitch from Altoona's Ben Wyland over the wall in right-center field for a three-run homer.
It looked as if Wyland would be in for a long day, but he.settled down after the first, allowing four hits and, more important, no runs the rest of the way.
"I just wanted to keep it in the strike zone, but away from their hot spots," Wyland said.
"Keep them very off balance."
Altoona tied the score with two runs in the second.
After a 50-minute rain and lightning delay with two outs in the fourth, Mt. Lebanon coach Patt McCloskey removed starter Mike Duffy and put Happ on the mound.
The move paid off initially as Happ quickly struck out the first batter he faced.
"It was a good matchup for Ian," McCloskey said. "They were down at the bottom of their order.
"Ian throws the hardest, Ian has the most strikeouts on the team."
In the fifth, though, Happ struggled with is control as four walks and two doubles led to three more Altoona runs.
"It's baseball," McCloskey said. "There were some borderline calls that didn't go our way. I think he threw some pretty good pitches but just missed. I don't think he folded at all. They're a very good team."
Over the final 31/3 innings, Happ struck out six and walked five. He finished 2 for 3 at the plate, including the three-run homer.
On the other hand, Altoona coach Tom Smith decided to leave Wyland in after the rain delay. He said he had another pitcher warm up as a precaution, but Wyland rendered that moot.
He allowed only two hits after the rain delay. Still, the Blue Devils put a runner in scoring position every inning except the sixth, but Wyland never gave up the big, run-producing hit.
Wyland finished with a complete game, allowing seven hits and striking out four.
"I'll tip my hat to him," McCloskey said. "He absolutely pitched his butt off. We hit some balls hard but didn't put any runs together.
"We continued to have a very good approach at the plate. We got some, but they minimized the damage.
"You don't get anything in baseball for hitting a couple of really good doubles."
First Published June 8, 2012 12:00 am