JACKSON TWP — Brad Gresock felt good as he strolled to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh during a tie ballgame against rival North Allegheny.
“Going up to that at-bat, I knew something special was going to happen,” said the Seneca Valley catcher.
He was right.
Gresock powered the eighth pitch of the at-bat over the left-field fence, sending his teammates into a frenzy as Seneca Valley walked off with a 3-2 triumph at Raider Field on Thursday to strengthen its grip on a WPIAL Section 1-AAAA crown.
“I’m on Cloud Nine right now,” said Gresock. “Every win is big, but this is especially a big one. NA is a great team, they played great today. We were able to come out on top.”
“That was a great game. Two very good teams battling at it,” said SV coach Eric Semega. “Brad stepped up at the end, got a pitch that he could handle and got us over the edge.”
Connor Coward twirled a complete game for the Raiders (9-2, 6-0). He struck out nine, walked three and scattered six hits over the 114-pitch outing.
Seven of his strikeouts came with North Allegheny runners in scoring position.
With men at first and second with no outs in the fourth, Coward fanned the next three batters.
An inning later, NA scored two runs to tie the game after James Meeker singled home Zach Woloszyk and Matt Waugaman followed with an RBI triple. However, Coward bounced back with consecutive strikeouts to prevent further damage and strand Waugaman at third.
Coward sat down the final six Tigers he faced before Gresock’s heroics.
“When I start a game, I intend to finish it,” said Coward. “Whatever is best for the team. I’m just happy to be celebrating with my team right now.”
“He had them off-balance,” said Semega of Coward. “A couple of times, there was a guy on second with no one out and we got out of the inning. That’s a competitor right there.”
Seneca Valley took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single from Carson Kessler to score courtesy runner Johnny Brittner.
Gianpaul Gonzalez led off the bottom of the fourth with a single, before Brittner entered as a pinch-runner. He came around to score when Waugaman, the first baseman, mishandled a grounder from Zach Spangler to give the Raiders a 2-0 edge.
The Tigers struck back in the top of the fifth, but it was the first time NA managed to advance a runner to third base.
“I was a little disappointed with our approach at the beginning of the game. ... It just took us too long to have quality at-bats,” said NA coach Andy Maddix. “By the time we did, (Coward) settled in and in some tough spots, he stepped it up a notch.”
Mitch Machi pitched the first four innings for the Tigers. He gave up five hits, two runs — one earned — walked three and struck out one.
“I don’t think he had his best stuff,” said Maddix of Machi. “But having said that, he competed and he battled and he gave us everything he had.”
Jimmy Divosevic relieved Machi in the fifth inning and entered the game with 20 strikeouts to just two walks on the season. He retired eight of the first nine batters he faced — fanning two — before Gresock’s walk-off blast.
Divosevic worked at a fast pace during much of his outing, but Gresock disrupted his rhythm by stepping out of the box.
“I just wanted to go at my speed. I’m at my best when I’m comfortable and I took advantage of that,” said Gresock. “I made sure I had my fair opportunity.”
“Brad is a senior. He’s been around,” said Semega. “He wasn’t going to step in there until he was ready. He put a good swing on it and a good thing happened.”
Aside from the importance in the standings, the victory also marked a milestone for the SV seniors.
“That’s six straight (wins over the Tigers),” said Gresock. “Thankfully, our senior class has never lost to NA.”
North Allegheny 000 020 0 — 2 6 2
Seneca Valley 100 100 1 — 3 7 2
W: Connor Coward 7 IP (9K, 3BB). L: Jimmy Divosevic 2 2-3 IP (2K, 0BB).
North Allegheny: James Meeker 1B, R, RBI; Matt Waugaman 3B, RBI; Jimmy Divosevic 1B; Justin Dattilo 1B; Zach Woloszyk 2-1B, R
Seneca Valley: Jon Dorogy 1B; Brad Gresock HR, R, RBI; Johnny Brittner 2-R; Sam Fragale 1B; Carson Kessler 1B, RBI; Gianpaul Gonzalez 1B; Zach Spangler 1B; Connor Coward 2B