WEST MIFFLIN — Jefferson-Morgan coach John Curtis called it “Baseball 101.”
Whatever lingo one prefers, the Rockets put on a textbook display of fundamental baseball and got another sparkling pitching performance from Bryce Bedilion on Monday. The result was a workmanlike 6-1 win by sixth-seeded J-M over third-seeded Rochester in a Class A quarterfinal game at West Mifflin High School.
Jefferson-Morgan (13-5) advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals against No. 7 Riverview at Plum High School. The result of that game wasn’t known at press time.
It’s the second time in four seasons J-M has reached the final four.
“It feels amazing,” Bedilion said of making it to the semifinals. “I’ve been waiting for this all my life.”
Kyle Clayton had two of J-M’s six hits along with a stolen base and a run and Easton Hanko drove in two runs.
Curtis stressed confidence as a key to his team’s success as it improved to 2-0 in the postseason, including a 7-1 win over Leechburg in the first round.
“They believe they can win and that’s 90 percent of it,” Curtis said. “Because physically, we can do it.
“It’s been an awesome year. We have a little bit of everything. Good seniors, good underclassmen including a couple freshmen on the corners, a junior behind the plate. Everybody does their job.”
The Rockets made the most of six hits with the help of two sacrifice bunts, a sacrifice fly, a stolen base and six walks, and also had two players reach base on catcher’s interference.
In the field Jefferson-Morgan was flawless until the seventh inning when it made its only error which lead to the lone run by the Rams (10-5). J-M turned three double plays.
“Basic fundamentals today,” Curtis said. “Turn two, bunt them up, move them over, base hit to get them in, make the plays in the field.
“It’s Baseball 101.”
Bedilion was masterful on the mound and took a shutout into the seventh. He allowed one unearned run on five hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in six innings.
“I’ve said it before. Big game, who do you want to throw? You want to throw Bryce,” Curtis said.
“He pitched a great game,” Rochester coach Scott Culley said of Bedilion. “He mixed pitches very well. He was in control and throwing strikes.”
The senior left-hander left the mound after reaching the pitch count limit in the seventh following an error on D.J. Smith’s grounder and a hit batter. Clayton relieved and induced a double-play grounder to second baseman Ayden Pratt who flipped to shortstop Easton Hanko who relayed to first baseman Bedilion as Smith scored to foil the shutout.
“We bring an outfielder in to play short (Hanko) and then you turn a double play,” Curtis said. “They just made the plays today.”
Culley tipped his cap to the Rockets.
“They were the better team today,” Culley said. “They played a clean game and we didn’t. We just couldn’t string any hits together.”
Jefferson-Morgan scored single runs in the first, third and fourth in building a 3-0 lead and then put the game away with three runs in the top of the seventh.
The Rockets got on the board with a two-out rally in the first against starting and losing pitcher Sal Laurie. Bedilion singled to right, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Easton Hanko’s single to right.
Logan Rhodes reached on an error in leading off Jefferson-Morgan’s third inning. Clayton singled to deep shortstop and Pratt put down the first of his two sacrifice bunts to move the runners up. After an intentional walk to Bedilion, Hanko hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
In J-M’s fourth inning, Troy Wright stroked a one-out single to right, went to second on Rhodes’ walk, took third when Clayton hit into a force out and scored on Pratt’s infield single.
Laurie hit the pitch count in the top of the seventh after giving up a single to Clayton. Ethan Blair relieved and after Pratt’s sacrifice bunt and another intentional walk to Bedilion, he also walked Hanko and Owen Maddich to force in a run. Bedilion scored on a wild pitch and Hanko later came home on a bases-loaded catcher’s interference call.
Laurie allowed three earned runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts in six innings.
“Sal pitched well enough to keep us in the game,” Culley said. “We just didn’t support him offensively, or defensively.”
The Rockets gave Bedilion plenty of support in the field, including the trio of twin-killings. They turned an unorthodox double play in the first thanks to batter interference on a strikeout and attempted steal. Shortstop Clayton turned a 6-3 double play to end the fifth.
“We did what we had to do and got the ‘W’,” Curtis said. “It’s fun working with these guys.”