Seneca Valley senior catcher Sarah Blagg, right, has teamed with junior pitcher Nikki Matz to give the Raiders a formidable battery again this spring.
JACKSON TWP — Pitchers’ duel or slugfest, it hasn’t mattered. The Butler baseball team has found a way to win both. The latest one-run victory for the Golden Tornado came in a wild road game against rival Seneca Valley on Wednesday. The teams combined for 19 runs, 23 hits and seven errors as Butler outlasted the Raiders, 10-9. “It was a test for both sides,” said Butler coach Todd Erdos. “Both sides played and battled to the end and showed no quit. It was one of those games that was bound to happen; We’re going to give up some runs. Our team responded today by scoring some runs itself.” Butler had given up just five runs in its six wins this season and had also won four one-run games during its hot start. The Golden Tornado scored four runs on just one hit in the first inning, but watched that lead evaporate into a 4-4 tie by the end of the first frame, setting the tone for the wild game to follow. Butler scored its four runs thanks in large part to four walks and a catcher’s interference call. The Tornado hadn’t put a lot of runs up on the board so far this season, but were patient at the plate, drawing nine walks and chasing Seneca Valley starter Troy Martin with just one out in the first inning. “I think our guys definitely have the capability to do it,” Erdos said. “We talked this week about pitch selection. It wasn’t a matter of mechanics, but just selecting the wrong pitches to swing at. They were very patient today. We got a lot of walks, made their pitchers work and that definitely played in our favor.” Butler added four more runs in the top of the third inning for an 8-4 lead. The key hit was a two-run double off the bat of Cory Wheeler, who also made two stellar plays in the field at shortstop on grounders hit to his right. He gunned down both Johnny Brittner and pinch-hitter Nick Gentry on sharp grounders hit between third and short. “Those were two big-league plays,” Erdos said. “Before the season started, with this group of kids, he’s been the silent leader. We didn’t have captains in the past, but this year he was voted a team captain. That speaks a lot to how this team views Cory.” Seneca Valley cut the Butler lead to 8-7 with two runs in the bottom of the third and another run in the bottom of the fourth. Vince Augustine, who had a two-run double for the Raiders in the first inning, got the third inning started with a double and scored on a RBI single by Jake Laskey. Alex Hajduk, who had three hits on the day, also had a RBI single in the frame. Matt Rafferty drove in a run with a single in the fourth. Butler tacked two runs in the top of the seventh inning off of Rafferty, Seneca Valley’s third pitcher of the day. It turned out Butler needed them as the Raiders scored twice in the bottom of the seventh on a two-run single by John Davis, who was stranded on first when Nick Reemer got a pop-up to end the game. Things have not been fortunate this season for Seneca Valley (3-7, 2-3). The Raiders came into the season gunning for their fourth-straight trip to the WPIAL Quad-A title game, but are struggling just to stay in the playoff race. Seneca Valley already has lost ace pitcher Connor Coward for the season with back problems. Coward, who is headed to Virginia Tech, missed most of his sophomore season with the same issue. The issues on the field for Seneca Valley these days are substantial. “It’s not baseball. It’s frustrating to watch,” said Seneca Valley coach Eric Semega. “Nine walks? You aren’t going to win many games. Period. And if you don’t do the other things right, you aren’t going to win any games. Right now, on any given day, we are doing one thing right and three things wrong. That’s a recipe for a nonplayoff team.” Despite the first-half struggles, Semega is still hopeful his club can turn things around.