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Raiders edge Hempfield in 6A baseball playoffs

PLUM — Zach Tkatch feared his high school career was over.

Seneca Valley’s senior pitcher felt discomfort in his throwing shoulder earlier this month and was forced to stay off the mound for two weeks.

“I thought that could be it for me,” he said. “Having to shut things down that late in the season, there was that fear.”

Not only is Tkatch’s high school career still breathing, but he is a big reason the Raiders are playing on.

Normally a starter, Tkatch entered Monday’s WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinal playoff against Hempfield in relief of Zyler Freedman in the third inning.

At the time, SV was clinging to a 4-3 lead. Tkatch allowed a run-scoring single to Caden Biondi, a run charged to Freedman, to tie the game. But over his five innings of work, Tkatch did not allow a run of his own in SV’s 5-4 win at Plum High School.

It was Tkatch’s first game action since the injury.

“The confidence I had in Zach came from communication,” said SV coach Eric Semega. “When he told me he wasn’t right a few weeks ago, I trusted him. And when he told me he was ready to go, I trusted him.”

Tkatch allowed two hits, walked four and struck out seven. He was in a groove late in the game, striking out five of the last six batters he faced.

“My slider was disgusting and they were getting caught looking at my fastball, too,” he said. “To be able to help the team like this, it feels amazing.”

The Raiders (12-8-1) will face top-seeded Mt. Lebanon at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Boyce-Mayfield Park.

SV scored the go-ahead run in the top of the fifth. Nick Parrotto and Owen Malak had back-to-back base hits against Hempfield reliever Dylan Firmstone to begin the inning. They both advanced Aedan Fowler’s groundout.

Ryan Rebholz singled in Parrotto and though a potential sixth run was denied on a throw to the plate on the same play, the Raiders had moved ahead for good.

“We’re a good offensive team, but their pitcher took control of the game late, had a really good slider,” said Hempfield coach Tim Buzzard.

The Raiders jumped on Hempfield starter Chase Sikorski, plating three runs off of him in the first inning. He walked three and surrendered a double to Luke Anderton and a sacrifice fly to Mike DelDuca.

Sikorski was pulled after just one out and the bases jammed with Raiders.

John Kurdziel worked two-plus innings before he was relieved by Firmstone.

The Spartans (14-7) answered with a pair of runs off Freedman in the bottom of the first. The runs were scored thanks to three consecutive two-out singles from Adam Hess, Quinn Wilkins and Biondi.

All nine players in SV’s lineup had at least one hit. Malak and Rebholz both had two hits.

Seneca Valley 301 010 0 — 5 11 0

Hempfield 202 000 0 — 4 9 0

WP: Zach Tkatch 5 IP (7K, 4BB). LP: Dylan Firmstone 4.2 IP (2K, 3BB).

Seneca Valley (12-8-1): Luke Anderton 2B R, Ryan Piekutoski 2B R, Owen Malak 1B 2B R RBI, Aedan Fowler 1B 2RBI, Ryan Rebholz 2-1B RBI

Hempfield (14-7): Dylan Firmstone 1B 2B 2R, Carson Shuglie 2B R RBI, Quinn Wilkins 2-1B RBI, Caden Biondi 2-1B 2RBI

Tuesday: Seneca Valley vs. Mt. Lebanon, WPIAL Class 6A semifinal, 4:30 p.m., Boyce Park:

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