ROBINSON TWP. — Carmichaels coach Dickie Krause felt his team needed a stellar performance to stay with Neshannock.
The Mikes fell far short of that in suffering an 11-1, five-inning loss to the third-seeded Lancers in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal baseball playoff game at Burkett Park on May 20.
Lead-off batter Preston Turk went 4-for-4 with a double, three RBIs and four runs scored to pace Neshannock (18-2), which pushed across six unearned runs thanks to five Carmichaels errors.
Frank DeLuca went 3-for-3 with two RBIs for the Lancers, and catcher Jake Staph gave his team a two-way boost by nailing two Mikes trying to steal and stroking a pair of run-scoring singles.
“We made a lot of mistakes, mentally and physically,” Krause said. “This was a big stage for us and we didn’t handle it well.
“They’ve been one of the elite programs in Double-A for awhile. We knew how good they were. But we came into this thinking if we play our ‘A’ game and we play as well defensively as we did against Jeannette (in a 1-0 first-round win) and if we pitch well and hit better we have a chance to be in the baseball game.”
None of that came to fruition for Krause.
“We botched two rundowns in the first inning,” Krause said. “You’re just not going to beat the elite programs if you’re not playing good baseball and we didn’t play good baseball.”
The Mikes (16-3) hurt themselves with four errors in the first three innings.
Neshannock set the tone by scoring an unearned run in the bottom of the first.
Turk led off with a double, took second on DeLuca’s walk, advanced to third on Gerald Taylor’s fly out and sprinted home to score while DeLuca was caught in a rundown and the throw to the plate sailed high.
DeLuca was caught in a rundown again on a quick move by Mikes starting and losing pitcher Matt Barrish, but again avoided an out when he dove under the tag to get back to second base. Mikes third baseman Zach Hillsman prevented any further damage when he turned Kadin Hall’s sharp grounder into a 5-3 double play.
Staph squelched potential Mikes’ rallies in the first two innings by gunning down Barrish, who singled with one out in the first, and Al Cree, who singled leading off the second, on attempted steals.
Neshannock added to its lead in the second when five straight singles and two errors ignited a four-run rally to make it 5-0. Zach Maize, Chris Bouye, Staph, Turk and DeLuca produced the hits, which prompted Krause to relieve Barrish with Drake Long.
“We tried to stay within ourselves and not try and do too much, each batter just do your job,” Lancers coach Bubba Kirkwood said. “Hit the ball hard and if they catch it they catch it, if they don’t then let’s keep running and just play hard.”
A Carmichaels error led to three unearned Neshannock runs in the third as Turk, DeLuca and Taylor each had an RBI single to make it 8-0.
“We took advantage of a few of their mistakes, definitely,” Kirkwood said.
“When you’re playing teams like this, every mistake you make gets magnified tremendously,” Krause said.
The Mikes got on the board in the fourth when Hall relieved starting pitcher Brendan Hink. Cree singled, took second on a wild pitch and scored when Zach Gamble lined a single to center.
A bit of controversy arose in the fifth after Collin Reynolds drew his second walk and Long also walked to start the inning. Kirkwood then called on Gavin Wooley to relieve Hall, although Krause pointed out to the home plate umpire that Wooley was not listed as a substitute on the lineup card.
Wooley was allowed to stay on the mound and he retired the next three batters to end the threat.
“The umpire told me substitutions are totally irrelevant, they’re a courtesy,” Krause said. “That why we beefed a little bit because we’ve never heard that. In our section they look for your subs on the lineup card.
“It had little bearing on the game but it makes me really curious. If we don’t have to do it then why am I even listing subs? I can’t see that he’s correct.”
Neshannock strung together four more hits in the bottom of the inning against the Mikes’ third pitcher, Logan Mayhle, to make it 10-1 and the game fittingly ended when the Lancers scored their final run on an error to invoke the 10-run rule.
Hink earned the win, allowing two hits and two walks with four strikeouts in three scoreless innings.
Cree was 2-for-2, accounting for half of the Mikes’ hits.
Krause has plenty of talent returning for 2020.
“We start five freshmen and sophomores,” Krause pointed out, “and we also have some juniors who had not played a lot until this year.”