Photos by Mike Longo Jr.
Anthony Markulin tags out a West Mifflin runner.
By Mike Longo Jr.
WPIAL 2A Champs
Words of an old song that promotes, "joy and pain, sunshine and rain," can best describe the sentiment around the campus of Montour High School in recent days.
Joy and celebration were the scenarios for members of the Spartans’ boys volleyball team. Recently they captured the WPIAL 2A championship with their dramatic victory over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, three games to two. The Chargers entered the finals as the No. 1 seed while Montour held fast in the No. 3 slot wearing the label of underdog.
Spartans head man, Colin Vitale was all smiles, proudly proclaiming, "This one belongs to the kids, each and every one of our players!"
Why shouldn't he smile as his team came back from the brink of disaster in the WPIAL Class 2A Championship held at Robert Morris University's UPMC Events Center? Montour overcame late-game deficits and a host of injuries to several of its key players in two of the five games.
Classic case of David versus Goliath? Maybe not. None-the-less, a WPIAL finals match-up in any sport is usually very entertaining, and this event did not disappoint.
In dramatic fashion, the underdog came out on top as the Spartans defeated OLSH three games to two claiming their fourth WPIAL Championship. It was their first since 2007 as they also won titles in 1987 and 2000 when the league competed in just a single classification.
Montour started by opening game one and sustaining and outlasting the Chargers 26-24. The wheels fell off and the Spartans promptly dropped the next two games by scores of 25-9 and 25-15.
This left players and fans with a sinking feeling of about to be run out of the building. Rest assured, overcoming adversity was something these Spartans seemed a little used to.
Rally the troops, as this match was far from over in the eyes of Montour's players. The Spartans would give their faithful plenty to make noise about in game four. Montour rallied posting a 26-24 victory and sending this contest into a fifth and decisive game. OLSH couldn't hold a slim 24-23 lead, needing only one point to secure their first ever WPIAL crown.
OLSH Head Coach Mike McDonald stated, "We could have closed it out in the fourth. We had two plays at it and we got blocked both times. You've got to make the play when you've got the opportunity, and we didn't."
Montour ran off three straight points in stunning fashion to claim the win and force a fifth and deciding game.
In the final segment, it was all Spartans posting a 15-10 win to claim the title. Andrew feely turned in seven kills and teammate Bruce Lizanich tallied five blocks propelling Montour into the PIAA State Playoffs along with runnersup OLSH.
The celebration for the Spartans however was short-lived. Entering into the state playoffs, Cochranton was Montour's opening-round opponent. Unfortunately, they were promptly shown the exit door and eliminated from advancing in straight games 3-0, by scores of 27-25, 25-20 and 26-24.
OLSH on the flip side, handled West Shamokin in the straight by scores of 30-28, 25-20 and 26-24.
They advance to the quarterfinals and faced Meadville on June 4.
PIAA playoffs for
Heartbreak and pain were on the menu served up to the Spartans baseball team, yet again. For the second straight year, Montour reached the WPIAL 4A championship game at Wild Things Park in Washington, Pa. Once again they walked away empty-handed. Last year, New Castle defeated Montour 5-0. This year, West Mifflin defeated the Spartans 5-4.
Marathons are usually associated with running unless the reference is an extra-inning baseball game that seems to be never-ending. Such was the case in this year's championship, which normally lasts seven innings to determine a winner, but in a true marathon setting it took 12 innings to crown a champion.
It tied the longest extra-inning championship game at Wild Things Park since Jeanette defeated Greensburg Central Catholic in 12 innings in 2017 in the Class A title game.
This game would have its share of drama and missed chances. The Spartans spotting West Mifflin one run to start the game could not have been more damaging. Montour ace fireballer, Dylan Mathiesen worked his way out of the jam to escape down only one run.
Montour basically wasted a lead-off double by Mason Sike in the second inning. Sike absolutely destroyed a fastball launching it to deep left-center field. Many in attendance including Spartans Head Coach Bob Janeda argued it was a home run as it was that close to leaving the yard. Sike who reached third base a play later then hesitated on a groundout and was nailed at the plate trying to score.
"We had our chances, probably three or four, just couldn't get a timely hit," said Janeda.
Montour finally woke up in the fourth inning as Matt Luchowick walked. Maddox Tarquinio replaced him and Sike singled. The Spartans seemed to be rolling until they suddenly crashed. The Titans knotted the contest in the sixth inning 3-3, without getting a hit, mainly courtesy of starting Pitcher Mathiesen. He hit three batters and walked one which lead to being replaced by relief pitcher Mason Sike. Sike walked in a run also.
The contest would stay the way until the top of the 12th.
West Mifflin scored two runs in the top half of the 12th inning and held off a fierce Montour rally in the bottom half that yielded only one run. Thus ending the contest and another year of disappointment, 5-4. Luchowick finished with two doubles, Sike had a double and single and Cole Fleck tripled and doubled.
Both teams entered the PIAA State playoffs this week.