Montour High School maintains a distinguished reputation in the athletic sphere, and many of the school’s programs have shown stretches of dominance in the 21st century. From 2007 to 2014, Montour racked up championships in football, boys basketball (twice), boys volleyball, girls soccer and softball (twice).
But the school hasn’t seen such success in recent years. Before this year, no Montour team had won or finished runner-up in the WPIAL since 2014. The athletics department continues to search for its next powerhouse program. Well, it might have found it this spring in coach Bob Janeda’s baseball squad.
Photo courtesy Montour Sports Department The Montour Spartans were pumped for post-season play where they proceeded to play until the state semifinals.
Baseball at Montour hasn’t seen the highs that other sports have, at least not during the current players’ lifetimes. The team last won a WPIAL championship in 1972, and has little to no postseason history at the state level. But the team has seen consistent success, posting winning records in seven of its previous nine seasons before Janeda took over in 2018.
This year, Janeda and his team took things to a new level, reaching the semifinals of the PIAA playoffs before losing to section rival New Castle, 3-1, on June 14.
The Spartans dropped their season opener against Central Catholic, but reeled off three straight wins immediately after, powered by some hot bats. Montour put up a ridiculous 40 total runs in its first four games, with junior catcher Matthew Luchovick’s six RBIs leading the way. The staff didn’t know where to put Luchovick in the lineup at first, but settled on the coveted cleanup spot.
Photo by Garret Roberts Montour Junior Chris Tarquinio readies to bat against the New Castle Red Hurricanes during the state semifinals June 14.
“Before the season started, some of the coaches said we should hit him two,” Janeda said.
“I said he’s gotta be our RBI guy. Call it ice in your veins, he comes up with guys in scoring position and gets good swings.”
Luchovick led the Spartans with 36 RBIs and four home runs this season. Senior Gannon Kadlecik, a Radford commit, followed closely behind with 22 RBIs, three homers, 26 runs scored and a .377 batting average.
The Spartans put together their best stretch toward the end of April, winning seven straight matchups shortly before the postseason. Not only did the team put runs on the board, but now it had dominant pitching to complement the offense.
Montour didn’t just have one ace, it had five go-to options for long, consistent appearances.
Junior Dylan Matthiessen made his presence known in the district, throwing a no-hitter against New Castle in one of his five wins.
Kadlecik served as the other trustworthy ace come playoff time, finishing the season with a team-best ERA of 1.26. Junior Mason Sike took over the closing role by the end of the year.
At 10-2, Montour posted the best record in the WPIAL Class 4A Section 2, finishing ahead of this year’s eventual state runner-up, New Castle. Janeda said he felt New Castle’s postseason run helped prove the legitimacy of the gauntlet his team faced.
“I think it just solidifies our section,” he said. “To go 10-2 in a section like we did was just a grind this year, it really was.”
Photo by Garret Roberts Montour Junior Ryan Gallagher steps up to the plate during the June 14 state semifinal against regional rival New Castle.
After cruising through their first two playoff matchups, the Spartans reached the WPIAL Championship game, where they faced New Castle, a team they had beaten twice in the regular season. The third time didn’t go their way, though, and they lost 5-0 thanks to a stellar pitching performance by Red Hurricanes ace Rocco Bernadina. With the PIAA 4A playoffs looming after the disappointing setback, Janeda gave his team a choice.
“I said, ‘You can check out at this point and enjoy summer break and go to your travel teams, or we can go somewhere a Montour team’s never gone, and that’s deep into the state playoffs,” he said. “We came back Friday and Saturday with some good practices. I saw it in their eyes. I wasn’t ready to quit and then I found out that they weren’t either.”
The Spartans blew out Clearfield in the first round, before dominating Cathedral Prep in the second.
Mathiesen rebounded from his shaky appearance against New Castle, holding Cathedral Prep scoreless in six innings of work.
Those two wins set up a rematch with New Castle in the state semifinals, the furthest the Spartans had ever gone in the postseason. The team chased a state championship, something no Montour sport has achieved since the boys bowling team won the PIAA in 1998.
The game remained tight until the end, but the Spartans couldn’t overcome New Castle pitcher Anthony Miller’s standout four-hit, 12-strikeout performance. After the game, Janeda showed his pride in the team’s historic season, and said the Spartans expect to be back in the same position next year. The players appeared devastated, but Janeda said they would appreciate their accomplishments in due time.
“I think they’re more in the moment,” he said. “I think they realize they did something special, and I think it’ll set in once they have a little time to reflect.”