Northwest Area’s Travis Evans slides safely into home as T.J. Melone covers the plate for Seton Catholic Friday in Shickshinny.CHARLOTTE BARTIZEK/FOR THE TIMES LEADER
SHICKSHINNY – Seton Catholic wasn’t quite ready for it all to come to an end.
In the early going on Friday afternoon, it looked like the Eagles were in danger of having their District 2 Class A semifinal against Northwest Area end in five innings.
Seton wasn’t just fighting to extend its baseball season, but rather the school’s final athletic event.
The Eagles managed to cut their deficit to three at one point, but the Rangers again proved too powerful, winning the game 9-4 at Northwest Area High School.
Top-seeded Northwest (16-1) advanced on to play No. 2 Old Forge in the Class A title game, which will be held on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.
As for the Eagles, it was the final game for their program, as Seton Catholic joins Bishop Hafey, Bishop Hoban and Bishop O’Reilly to form Holy Redeemer High School for the 2007-08 school year.
Six runs in the first two innings had the Rangers cruising before Seton battled back to make it 7-4. But as they’ve done all season, the Rangers kept up the pressure at the plate to blow away an opponent.
“We’re always pretty aggressive,” Northwest coach Jim Hill said. “It certainly wasn’t our best game, but you play to win.”
Clean-up man Travis Evans led the 12-hit barrage with a 4-for-4 performance, reaching on a single in each at-bat. Matt Kempinski added two hits with a double and a pair of RBI, while Wes Ravert went 2-for-4 with a solo shot into the wilderness in left field in the sixth inning.
Josh Blaine earned the win on the mound, breezing through much of the first four innings before hitting a rough patch in the fifth, when Kempinski came on to take it the rest of the way.
After losing all three games to the Rangers in the regular season by a combined score of 20-5, Seton (11-6) tried something different on the mound in Friday’s contest.
Catcher T.J. Melone – who had pitched in past years but not at all this season – got the starting nod. With ace Joe Dorbad going nine innings in a quarterfinal win, Seton coach Chick Andrewscavage elected to go with Melone, who throws more offspeed pitches than normal No. 2 man Chris Iorio.
“These guys are a fastball hitting team,” Andrewscavage said of Northwest. “And our one pitcher, Joe Dorbad, is the guy who throws all the junk. This was just something to try and give them a different look than they’ve seen. They’ve seen all of our other pitchers in games before, and they hit us well. They hit everyone well.”
The experiment lasted just three batters, as two walks and a single to start the game caused Seton to switch in Justin Shuleski, who went the rest of the way. Jake Englehart’s two-out, two-run single was the most damaging hit in the first, staking Northwest to a 4-0 lead.
Iorio drove in a pair with a two-out double in the fifth to give the Eagles some life, but Northwest wouldn’t allow them any closer.
It was a fairly successful season for Seton, which brought only one senior back and only a small handful of players with varsity experience. For Andrewscavage, the toughest thing now is the knowledge that he won’t get to be with his young players as they continue to develop.
“It’s a shame to even think about not having them again next year when you’re playing with five freshmen, three sophomores and five juniors,” he said. “And to think that you’re not going to have them when they come out here and battle like this everyday – it’s just sad.”
Andrewscavage said the coaches and the team talked about the inevitable end before the season began, and that they’d surely get together again before parting ways this summer.
For the coach, there are plenty of great memories.
“If I had to end my coaching career, I wouldn’t want to end it anywhere more than here,” Andrewscavage said. “You never want it to end, but (Northwest is) a powerful team. I’m sure they’ll do well in the championship game.”