Photo by Garret Roberts
By Alex Lehmbeck
Montour baseball’s historic season came to an end Monday, losing 3-1 to WPIAL foe New Castle in the PIAA 4A semifinals at Neshannock High School. The showdown marked the fourth time the teams met this year, with Montour winning both regular-season matchups and New Castle taking the two postseason games.
A shaky first inning proved costly for the Spartans, as they were unable to overcome the early hole they fell into. Radford commit Gannon Kadlecik got the start on the mound for Montour, but gave up two runs in the opening frame. The first came on an RBI single by New Castle standout Rocco Bernadina, and the second on an errant pickoff attempt from the catcher to first base.
“We walked a guy and we made an error and they got a couple of runs in,” Montour coach Bob Janeda said. “In tight games like this, you hope you can overcome them, but it’s tough. It’s tough.”
In the last meeting between these teams, Bernadina pitched a one-hit gem to thwart Montour in the WPIAL championship game. With Bernadina needing rest after a long outing Friday, the Red Hurricanes turned to young Notre Dame commit Anthony Harris on the mound, and he delivered when the spotlight shone the brightest.
While his outing didn’t turn out as statistically dominant as Bernadina’s, Harris looked in total control against Montour’s lineup. The sophomore tossed a complete game with just one earned run, four hits and 12 strikeouts.
The game took place just a mere 10 minutes from New Castle, and the Red Hurricanes faithful took this advantage to the next level, showing up en masse. A crowd of about 2,000 fans lined the entire ballpark in support of their team, stacking some areas several rows deep with chairs. New Castle students filled an entire section of bleachers behind the dugout.
“Our guys feed off the crowd; the crowd is amazing,” New Castle coach Bill Cook said. “We have the best fan base in Pennsylvania, bar none. They stand behind these guys before we leave, when we come home. You know, they write on their cars, they’re amazing. And again, our kids feed off that.”
Montour’s lone run came in the fourth inning, when junior first baseman Mason Sike drove in Kadlecik, trimming the lead to 2-1. Sike would relieve Kadlecik on the mound in the next frame, allowing one run in the final three innings.
While the conclusion certainly came as a disappointment to Montour’s players, Janeda showed nothing but pride in his team after it went the furthest into the postseason that any Spartan team ever has. The squad finished 17-7 and made the state semifinals for the first time in school history. Janeda said the players haven’t realized their impact yet, but will soon.
“I think they’re more in the moment,” Janeda said. “I think they realize they did something special, and I think it’ll set in once they have a little time to reflect.”
Janeda said the team will use the loss as motivation in the offseason and has gained unquantifiable experience from this postseason run.
“We expect to be right here next June playing again,” Janeda said.