After a 2-hour, 37-minute slugfest followed by a 30-minute rain delay, a muddy pitcher’s mound finally put a Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference game into the official scorebook on Tuesday night.
Bishop McCort Catholic scored eight runs in the bottom of the fifth to overtake previously undefeated Chestnut Ridge at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point.
The Crimson Crushers were awarded a five-inning, 15-12 victory when the game was called with one out in the top of the sixth inning. The Lions had baserunners on first and third with the middle of the batting order due up.
“They were saying there was too much mud on the mound. That’s why we didn’t finish the game,” Chestnut Ridge coach Ron Kakabar said after his team lost for the first time in nine games.
Chestnut Ridge did receive a lift when news of Somerset’s 3-2 upset over previously undefeated Forest Hills (12-1) meant that Wednesday’s scheduled game between the LHAC frontrunners in St. Michael will feature a pair of one-loss squads.
“It was a tough loss,” Kakabar said.
“We came into this game probably not expecting for them to play as well as they did. We knew they were a good-hitting team. We knew they were going to be a tough team to beat.
“I take a lot of the blame on myself as a coach, my first loss,” he said. “I didn’t have my team prepared right.
“A couple things I could have done differently. But it’s just a game and in the end, we’ve got bigger things to worry about than losing one game.”
The teams combined for 19 hits, 11 by the Crimson Crushers.
Chestnut Ridge was hurt by three errors and a costly wild pitch on a third strike that led to the Crushers’ four-run second inning.
“We battled back multiple times,” Bishop McCort coach Chris Pfeil said of his 6-5 team. “Both teams were throwing punches at the plate. We had that big fifth inning, got a lot of barrels to the ball and a lot of good things happened for us.”
Bishop McCort trailed 12-7 through 41/2 innings. Ridge held leads of 1-0, 4-3, 8-7 and 12-7 before the Crimson Crushers’ comeback.
Pfeil’s team sent 12 batters to the plate and had eight hits in the fifth.
Ian Verhovsek and Jordan Page eached doubled during the inning, and Pitt recruit Brendon Bair tripled.
Bishop McCort catcher Joe McGowan had an infield single during the game-winning rally to cap a 3-for-4 night, including a three-run triple and five RBIs.
“I kept my composure in the box, saw the pitch I liked and swung away,” McGowan said.
Pfeil said his cleanup hitter displayed patience at the plate.
“Joe has been huge for us,” Pfeil said.
“He’s starting to catch fire for us. A five-RBI day at the plate. Really smart at-bats. He went up with the right approaches and found a way to drive in some runs.”
Bair scored four runs, and shortstop Mason Pfeil drove in a pair. Verhovsek had two doubles and two RBIs. Roman Fetzko had a two-run, pinch-hit single in the fifth.
“With the rain delays, coach told us before the game, ‘You’ve always got to be ready for what comes ahead,’ ” McGowan said. “We were just ready for this. We hit the ball all over the place.”
Play was halted at 7:07 p.m. during a steady rain. About 30 minutes later, the tarp was removed and the umpires walked the mound before deciding it was too muddy to continue play.
With his team poised for yet another big inning, Kakabar could have wondered, “What if?” Instead, he made no excuses for a disappointing setback.
“We’re worried about winning D5 and the state (Class 3A) playoffs,” Kakabar said. “We look at each pitcher and each game as a challenge. We didn’t meet the challenge tonight.”
Garrett Emerick had two hits, two runs and three RBIs for the Lions. Lucas Nicodemus and Kyle Lohr each had a hit and two RBIs.
Kakabar used two of his top pitchers in relief – Nate Whysong and Luke Mickle.
He said the Lions will be ready for another key game Wednesday at Forest Hills.
“I have a pretty good 10th grader who is going to throw for me, Garrett Emerick,” Kakabar said. “We play four games in three days. We have a doubleheader on Thursday, so I have to use some of the pitchers I used tonight in that game.
“We’re a good team. If we’re going to do anything in the playoffs, we’re going to have to persevere.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.