By Alex Lehmbeck
Montour ace Dylan Matthiessen dominated in his first matchup against New Castle this season, throwing a no-hitter en route to a 3-0 victory. But opposing pitcher Rocco Bernadina got his revenge Wednesday, firing a one-hitter to lead the Red Hurricanes to a 5-0 win for the program’s first-ever WPIAL championship in the Class 4A title game at Wild Things Park in Washington.
Both schools traveled impressively, with loud student sections grouped down the first and third base lines. Despite the score and pouring rain, most of the fans stayed until the final out.
The Spartans entered the 4A playoffs as the team to beat, finishing the regular season with the best record in their conference and winning both battles against New Castle. The team narrowly avoided a first-round upset to Quaker Valley before blowing out Laurel Highlands in the semifinals.
Yet Montour found itself in an uphill battle Wednesday, surrendering multiple early scores that set the tone for the championship.
New Castle pushed across two runs in the top half of the first inning, a lead that would never come into danger with Bernadina’s performance. The Spartans had no answer for the Kent State commit, who dug deep into his arsenal with a variety of pitches. Bernadina said he assumed Montour had primarily practiced hitting his heater leading up to the game.
“My fastball was really complemented by my changeup,” he said. “You gotta switch it up. You gotta do what you gotta do, and they were prepared for something I didn’t bring to the table.”
It took over four innings for Montour to break up Bernadina’s no-hitter, but the Spartans wouldn’t find any more success in the batter’s box. Outside of that hit and a sixth-inning walk, Bernadina kept the bases empty from start to finish. The senior finished the day with 13 strikeouts, fanning 10 of the last 13 batters he faced.
“The control that he had, the mentality, even when he’d come in the dugout, you couldn’t talk to him,” New Castle coach Billy Cook said. “He’s in a zone. It’s not that he’s ignoring you, it’s just in his own zone and you gotta leave him alone.”
Matthiessen gave up three runs in four innings on the mound. Senior Gannon Kadlecik took over the rest of the way, allowing a run on a wild pitch in the fifth inning and another on a crafty squeeze bunt in the sixth.
Despite the loss, Montour will advance to the PIAA state playoffs alongside New Castle. According to Montour baseball’s twitter feed, the Spartans will open at 5 p.m. Monday against Clearfield at Showers Field in DuBois.
The state championship is slated for June 18 at Penn State’s Medlar Field.