After a playoff run that featured multiple come-from-behind victories, Greater Latrobe left no doubt in the state title game. The Wildcats cruised to a 7-0 rain-shortened win against District 11 champion Whitehall to claim the first PIAA 5A Championship at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The game was called after more than an hour delay in the top of the sixth, and with no end in sight for the steady downpour. The rain did not dampen the celebration, though, as the Wildcats savored their first state title, just weeks after securing the team’s first WPIAL crown.
Playing as the road team, the Wildcats (24-2) scored twice in the first inning. Jared Kollar opened the contest with a single to center, but was eliminated when Tyler Roble hit into a fielder’s choice. Roble advanced to second because of a throwing error on the play, though, and the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the year, Zach Kokoska, plated the first run with his single. Griffin Clark followed with a single of his own, and Ryan Augustine and Ryan Shawley reached on a hit by pitch and walk, respectively. Shawley’s walk brought home Kokoska to make it 2-0, but Whitehall left-handed pitcher Zach Gilbert struck out the last two batters to limit the damage.
Greater Latrobe head coach Matt Basciano, in his 14th campaign, noted that he and the coaching staff instilled a mindset in his team that paid immediate dividends.
‘We wanted to get them (the Wildcats) out there aggressive and take an early lead, and that’s exactly what they did,’ he said. ‘They made it this far, they weren’t going to let anyone take it away from them.’
Kollar kept the Zephyrs’ (13-13) lineup in check, meanwhile, as he allowed just one hit and one walk through the first four innings.
On the other side, Gilbert found his groove for a pair of innings, but Greater Latrobe struck for three runs in the fourth. Isaac Echard opened the stanza by drawing a walk, and he scored on a two-out single by Tyler Roble. Kokoska, a Virginia Tech commit, Clark and Augustine all followed with singles of their own, which extended the Wildcats’ edge to 5-0.
In the fifth, Whitehall, which had won its past six games, called upon Matt Dobeck in relief of Gilbert. The Zephyrs’ second southpaw didn’t fare any better than the first, however, as he surrendered a pair of runs in the inning. Dan Stas opened the frame with a bloop single and Echard drew another walk. After a groundout, pinch-runner Ben Shaw and Echard both scored on a two-run single by Kollar.
In the bottom of the fifth, Kollar faced difficulty for the first time, as the initial two batters for Whitehall reached base. Jake Lisicky singled and John Kaintz walked, respectively, but Kollar induced a strikeout and fielders’ choice. Robby Lamm followed with a single to right field, but a baserunning miscue allowed the Wildcats to tag out Adin Hoderewski out at third to end the threat.
The first two Wildcats reached base in the top of the sixth before a lightning delay halted action, and shortly thereafter, a downpour of rain hit University Park, as well.
In the abbreviated contest, Kollar, a Seton Hill commit, recorded a shutout, surrendering just three hits and two walks with six strikeouts. The Wildcats, meanwhile, produced 10 hits, including two each for Kollar, Kokoska, Clark and Augustine.
For Whitehall, which was appearing in its first PIAA title game as well, Lisicky reached base in both of his plate appearances, a walk and a single.
Greater Latrobe : 2 – 0 – 0 – 3 – 2 = 7 10 0
Whitehall : 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 = 0 3 2