By Mike Longo Jr.
The Montour Spartans won the school’s first ever PIAA State Baseball Championship.
A season filled with joy, pain and heartache culminated on the campus of the Pennsylvania State University on June 16, with a stunning 10-9 victory over Holy Ghost Prep at Med lar Field at Lubrano Park.
"Words don't explain it," said Coach Bob Janeda of the win. "This senior class deserved a medal, a gold medal, not silver."
The Spartans ran through the regular season holding the top spot in section 4A most of the year and grabbing the number one seed as the WPIAL Playoffs began. As they started their assault on a potential WPIAL Championship, the Spartans breezed through their bracket and reached the finals. Unfortunately for Montour, they suffered the agony of defeat in the WPIAL Finals for the second straight year.
Last season, New Castle bested Montour for the crown. This year, West Mifflin crushed the Spartans’ title dreams in a 12-inning thriller which saw Montour drop a hard-fought 5-4 decision. Qualifying for the state tournament seemed like a moot point.
Fast forward to the PIAA State Playoffs and Montour was a team on a mission. Coach Janeda made sure his senior-laden squad was poised and ready.
Spartans Matthew Luchovick looks into the dugout for a sign.
After trouncing their opponents in the first two rounds, it was rematch time against West Mifflin. That game provided a showdown in an old-fashioned pitchers duel. Montour raced out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back. Ace of the pitching staff, Dylan Mathiesen was nearly flawless.
His sole slip-up occurred in the fourth inning, when he gave up the only run West Mifflin would get. Mathiesen held his opponents in check, earning the complete game win.
"I was definitely stronger later in the game," Mathiesen said.
The thrilling 2-1 win propelled Montour into the state title game.
Montour faced off against Holy Ghost Prep for the state championship on a sweltering day, when the heat index reached 100 degrees.
Holy Ghost’s record was 18-7 and Montour's was 21-6. This marked the Spartans’ first appearance in the state title matchup. Prior to that game, the Spartans’ only baseball banner was a 1972 WPIAL Championship.
Fans were on the edge of their seats during the dramatic game.
Senior Flamethrower, Mason Sike, received the starting nod. Sike's time on the mound lasted four innings, giving up five runs on six hits while walking four batters. Sike was replaced by Ryan Gallagher in the fifth. He would also play a key role at the plate, going three for four with five RBI's, while being lifted three times for pinchrunner. Maddox Tarquinio scored three times.
Montour battled back from deficits of 3-0 and 5-2, finally posting a 6-5 lead entering the sixth inning. Montour just couldn't put the game on ice as they ran into a dire situation in the sixth. With two outs, Gallagher hit a batter, then proceeded to walk the next, loading the bases. Holy Ghost's Tyler McCord entered the batter's box and promptly launched a grand slam off the left-field foul pole, propelling his team to a 9-6 lead.
However, in true "Spartan Pride" fashion, their never-quit mentality lived on. The best was yet to come.
Spartans Brock Janeda and Jacob Robinson celebrate an out.
Brock Janeda started the comeback with a leadoff walk. Nick Walker reached base on a fielding error. Sike would take an outside pitch and drive into right field, scoring the pair. Tarquinio scored from first base on a throwing error.
Cole Fleck scored the game-winner as he raced home from third base. Montour utilized two walks, three Holy Ghost errors and a hit to grab a 10-9 lead heading to the bottom of the seventh, ultimately winning the game.
Sike summed it up. "It's crazy. Surreal."
On that blistering hot field, there was no heartbreak, no pain–only joy and celebration.
Congratulations to the Montour Spartans, the PIAA State Class 4A Champions.