WEXFORD — At the end of the Clarion baseball team’s PIAA Class A quarterfinal win over Elk County Catholic, Bobcat coach Rob Jewett said that his team has been riding senior Reed Anthony’s coattails all season long on the mound.
Anthony was once again brilliant on the mound on Monday afternoon, but it was ironic that the game ended with his bat and his sprint down the first base line.
In a scoreless game in the bottom of the seventh, Anthony reached on an error, which brought home Kyle Patterson from third base as Clarion punched its ticket to Thursday’s PIAA Class A title game with a 1-0 win over Greensburg Central Catholic at North Allegheny High School.
“I have no words,” said Jewett, just before his team gave him a “championship” water cooler celebration. “If someone would’ve told me state finals...I know they’re good ballplayers, but state finals?”
Before coming up with the key at-bat, Anthony tossed six more innings of scoreless ball. He is now at 17 straight innings without allowing a run.
The southpaw allowed three hits, one walk and struck out seven in his six innings on the mound on Monday. Spencer Miller came on in relief in the seventh and hit a batter, but got out of the inning with a lineout right back to him and a throw to first base for a double play.
“Reed pitched his butt off,” said Jewett. “He’s been used a lot, but he’s a gamer.”
On the final play of the game, Anthony’s bouncer was hit just to the left of the Centurion third baseman. The ball clanked off the third baseman’s glove and didn’t pick it up until after Anthony had crossed first base with his fists in the air.
“He’s not the fastest of feet either, so that was not a sure thing,” said Jewett. “Once he bobbled it, I said, ‘Thank God.’
“He didn’t have his offspeed as much as I would have liked, but he didn’t really need it. He just had a fastball, and just enough of a curveball and changeup in key moments. He trusted his defense too, and why wouldn’t you? They played great for him.
“It was a great all-around day for him. I’m glad he experienced it. I was worried about putting him out there and him having an off game, but he did not disappoint. We’ve been riding him all year. It’s nice to see. And everyone had to step up in their own way. It was a great team win.”
Anthony had ran into some trouble in the top of the sixth and got out of the inning with 95 pitches thrown. Jewett said he had no thoughts of sending the lefty back to the mound on a hot, humid day with only five pitches left to throw before the 100-pitch limit.
“The coaches asked me ‘Are you going to send him out?’ I said ‘Heck no,’” said Jewett. “This is going to wear down on you quickly. I’d rather go to somebody with a fresh inning and fresh arm. It worked out well for us.”
Greensburg Central Catholic had just two batters reach base in the first five innings –one on a first inning single from Jason Hoover, and the other on a fourth inning base hit from Jack Liberatore. Neither of them reached second base.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats were getting their opportunities in the early-going, but could not cash in on them.
Miller reached on an infield single to lead off the bottom of the first, but was caught trying to steal second base a few pitches later.
Ryan Anthony and Sterling Conner also got on via a walk from Greensburg Central Catholic starting pitcher Neal McDermott, and both advanced on a passed ball to put two runners in scoring position. McDermott got out of the inning with a strikeout looking.
McDermott matched Reed Anthony on the mound. He allowed three hits in 5 2/3 innings, walked three and struck out 10 before getting to the 100-pitch maximum.
Antonio Cavallo came on to pitch after McDermott was done.
“We missed a couple clutch hits,” said Jewett. “I’m the one to blame for a couple baserunning errors, but the defense kept us there. We finally got some clutch hitting, and that pitcher was no joke. He was feeding the zone. He was a little faster than what we’ve seen in a while.
“I knew if we were patient enough, we’d wear him down and maybe get somebody else. That’s exactly what happened. It worked out well for us. It could’ve worked out for them too.”
Clarion had at least one runner in scoring position in four of the first five innings. Skyler Rhoades drew a one-out walk in the second and moved to second on a Patterson sacrifice bunt, but was stranded at second.
Miller reached on an error to lead off the third, but McDermott struck out the next three batters.
Clarion missed out on another big chance in the bottom of the fifth as Dominic Fleming smacked a one-out opposite-field single and moved to second on a passed ball. Miller followed with a base hit up the middle to put runners at the corners.
Miller took second base on a catcher’s indifference, but McDermott forced a pop-up and a strikeout to end the frame still scoreless.
With two outs in the top of the sixth, McDermott blooped a single just past the first base bag before Hoover walked.
Then, one of the key moments in the game took place as Liberatore’s fly ball to center field looked destined for an RBI single, but Conner made a diving catch to keep the Centurions off the board.
“It was a big lift for us, and I knew it took the wind out of their sails,” said Jewett. “They thought they had it, and I did too. That was huge for us.
“That outfield with him and Skyler in right, they cover a ton of ground and they get really good jumps,” said Jewett. “Sterling has been doing it all year. That was a game-saver.”
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Nate Datko singled for Cavallo’s first batter of the game. Rhoades also hit a base hit to center field, but Datko was thrown out at third base to end the inning.
Patterson started off the bottom of the seventh getting hit by a pitch on a 1-2 count. Fleming moved him up with a sacrifice bunt for the first out.
GCC elected to intentionally walk Miller, and Ryan Anthony’s slow grounder to follow could not be turned into a double play. The Centurion second baseman threw to first to get the second out and put runners at second and third to set up Reed Anthony’s heroics.
“I’m so proud of these kids. They’re so resilient,” said Jewett. “They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do. I’m so happy that it’s paying off for them in such big ways.
“A lot of people wrote us off early, and for us to just keep coming and keep coming, it’s tremendous. I can’t say enough about them.”
With the win Monday, Clarion improved to 21-3 on the season.
The Bobcats will compete for all the marbles on Thursday afternoon against Meyersdale in the Class A championship game. Meyersdale defeated High Point, 2-1, in eight innings in the semis on Monday.
First pitch on Thursday is set for 12:30 p.m. at Penn State University’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.