Mars’ Dave Bednar fires a pitch during a complete-game shutout of Knoch on Friday at Pullman Park in the Planets’ 3-0 win.
TYE CYPHER/SPECIAL TO THE EAGLE
In a game with few opportunities, Colin Stewart made the most of his. Deadlocked in a scoreless tie with a man on second and two outs in the top of the seventh, Stewart hit a 3-2 pitch up the middle to bring home Connor McGinnis and propelled Mars to a 3-0 victory over Knoch in a WPIAL Section 5-AAA baseball clash on Friday night at Pullman Park. “When you have the runners on base, you just know you have to pull through for your team,” said Stewart. “I knew 3-2 that he would have to come with the fastball ... I just sat on it and stuck to the basics.” The throw home was cut off and nearly caught Stewart in a rundown, but first base was left uncovered and the junior scampered back in time. “When I got back to first, that’s when it really struck me,” said Stewart. The RBI single spoiled a stellar outing from Knoch starting pitcher Taylor Sharer, who hurled a complete game and gave up just one hit heading into the seventh frame. Mars starting pitcher Dave Bednar finished off the Knights in the bottom of the seventh to secure a complete-game shutout. Bednar struck out eight and allowed four hits during the win, which clinched second place outright in the section. “I was around the zone with my curveball, I was able to throw strikes and that’s when I’m successful,” said Bednar. “It was a great team win. Everything kind of clicked that last inning.” Mars coach Brian Hobaugh has become accustomed to seeing such performances from his senior right-hander. “Dave is going to keep us in every game he pitches in. He’s done it his whole career here,” said Hobaugh. “He never gets rattled — couple guys get on, no big deal — he just pitches right out of it.” Knoch (8-8, 6-4) had its best chance to score in the bottom of the second when the Knights loaded the bases with one out. Bednar plunked Andy Fritz to start the inning, before Sharer singled and Cole Shinsky drew a walk. However, Bednar fanned Zach Junk and induced a grounder to third from Hunter Balliet to escape the jam unscathed. “That was huge to get the second out and to get that third out was crucial,” said Bednar. “It was big to keep it scoreless.” Bednar and Sharer went pitch for pitch, efficiently setting down the opposition. Bednar kept the Knights from advancing to third after the second inning, while Sharer held Mars without a hit for 18 consecutive batters until Josh Bartley broke through with a one-out single in the seventh. “The two guys were seniors and they just battled,” said Knoch coach George Bradley. McGinnis reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second during Stewart’s at-bat after a pickoff attempt from Fritz, the catcher, sailed down the right-field line. Following Stewart’s heroics, Kevin Giallonardo claimed to be hit by a pitch and trotted to first without any objection from the umpires, but the Knoch dugout contested the call and Giallonardo was eventually sent back to the plate. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Mars (11-7, 8-2). Giallonardo blasted a 2-0 pitch into the left-center gap for a triple to score Stewart and Ben Erdahl followed with a single up the middle to provide the Planets with a 3-0 cushion. “I’m glad it worked out that way,” said Hobaugh of the confusion surrounding Giallonardo’s at-bat. Hobaugh said he was pleased to see his team pull through against a quality team. “That’s the kind of effort you’re going to need in the playoffs because they’re going to be tight games. You have to have some big two-out hits,” the Mars coach explained. “It was an awesome game. I give them credit for making us battle.” Knoch, which lost 2-0 to section champion Hampton on Wednesday, hopes to turn the tables in close games come playoff time. “We’re getting close, we’re almost there. Once we get over that hump, look out,” said Bradley. “I’m very, very happy with my team. How can you be mad? It was a great high school game. ... I wish we would have won, but we didn’t.” Mars hopes to carry the momentum into the postseason. “We need to go into the playoffs on a little bit of a roll,” said Hobaugh. “We need to get some steam.” Stewart is confident in his team’s chances. “This is a great baseball team, a great strong senior class,” said Stewart. “We’re ready to go.” Mars 000 000 3 — 3 5 0 Knoch 000 000 0 — 0 4 2 W: David Bednar 7 IP (8K, 2BB). L: Taylor Sharer 7 IP (3K, 3BB). Mars (11-7, 8-2): Ben Erdahl 1B, RBI, SB; Sam Swiatek 1B; Josh Bartley 1B; Connor McGinnis R; Colin Stewart 1B, R, RBI; Kevin Giallonardo 3B, R, RBI Knoch (8-8, 6-4): Hyte Eurich 2-1B; Taylor Sharer 1B; Hunter Balliet 1B Monday: Knoch at Central Catholic Tuesday: Mars at North Hills