Bearcats lose to S. Side Beaver

SOMERSET — Sometimes great expectations can build a confidence that leads a team to glory.

There are other times they can cause an enormous weight on someone’s shoulders.

The Huntingdon Area high school baseball team that rolled to a Curve Classic championship, a second straight District 6 Class 3A title and a 21-1 record entering Thursday’s PIAA quarterfinal game against South Side Beaver came up on the wrong end of a 5-1 score. The loss ended the careers of nine Bearcat seniors, including the top seven hitters in Thursday’s lineup.

“I think there was a little too much pressure on the guys,” said Huntingdon second baseman Nick Zanic as he held back tears. “Everyone’s goal on the team was to win the state championship.”

The loud chatter and excitement that came with Alex Mykut’s RBI single in the first inning to bring home Nick Holesa and tie the game at one slowly faded as the game wore on.

South Side scored two runs in the top of the third inning on Alex Jones’ two-out single. The Rams added another run in the fourth.

Meanwhile, a very potent Bearcats lineup managed just four hits and the lone first-inning run against South Side starter Casey Jones.

“Unexpected and disappointing,” Huntingdon coach George Zanic said. “You have to tip your hat to their guy. He carved us up and was very effective. He didn’t miss a spot all day, and we didn’t hit the baseball.”

Jones was pitching his second consecutive state playoff game. The Rams beat Greenville, 17-3, in the first round and pulled Jones after he threw only 59 pitches because they had such a large lead.

“Any time we have Casey pitching, it’s very big for our team,” South Side coach Chip Hunter said. “They really rally behind him, and he will compete against anybody. It was very important to have him. We know we have a chance against anybody with him on the mound.”

Huntingdon was not afforded that luxury, as No. 1 starter Jared Showalter pitched a complete game in the Bearcats’ 5-2 first-round win over Avonworth.

“I took a chance and started a young guy out there on the mound (Thursday), and that’s on me,” George Zanic said. “We didn’t start out as well as I thought we would, and we didn’t hit the baseball like we have all year.

“The option for me was to start (senior) Ben Briggs or to start (sophomore) Jackson (Ritchey). We decided to go with Jackson, and it didn’t work out.”

Jackson Ritchey had Huntingdon’s final hit, a double, in the fifth inning, but he was stranded at third.

“Nothing is going to soften the blow of this,” George Zanic said. “We’re going to remember this. We met a lot of our goals, but our main goal from the end of last year was to win the state championship, and we came up short. I’m disappointed for our seniors, that’s for sure.”

While Huntingdon was expected to be one of the top competitors for the PIAA Class 3A title after losing to eventual state champion Central in the semifinals a year ago, not much was expected from South Side.

The Rams played loose and may have benefitted from the lack of expectations.

“We’re a Cinderella story,” Hunter said. “It’s been since 2000 that we were able to make it to the state playoffs. We’re enjoying the moment as it is, taking that underdog role and seeing what we can do.”

Though Thursday’s loss marked the end of the high school careers of many Bearcats, some will continue playing baseball.

“All of us guys have been together for a long time,” Nick Zanic said. “Six of the seniors are going on to play college baseball. Winning the district title two years in a row means a lot to us.”

The Bearcats remained stunned in the minutes following the game, but some were reflecting on more positive thoughts as they made their slow walk to the team bus.

“It stinks we lost, but we made a lot of memories along the way,” Mykut said. “It was great playing with all my friends since we were young. You couldn’t ask for a better team.”

South Side will play Brownsville, a 10-0 winner over District 6 runner-up Bald Eagle Area, in the semifinals on Monday.

“We have nine seniors with a combined grade point average of 3.7,” George Zanic said. “That’s the most important thing. Moving forward, they are great kids and they will be great fathers. This is going to sting awhile for them, but I’m really proud of them. I wish there was something I could say, but nothing I can say will change the pain they are feeling.”

SOUTH SIDE BEAVER (5): Satler c 401, Woodling cf 231, McDougal 2b 401, C. Jones p-ss 121, Almashy cr 010, McCoy 1b 201, Windsor 3b 301, Luketic pr 000, A. Jones rf 401, Woodard ss-p 300, Sargent lf 300. Totals — 27-5-8.

HUNTINGDON (1): Zanic 2b 301, Holesa ss 311, Showalter rf 300, Mykut c-p 301, Weglarz lf 300, Wagner cr-lf 000, Briggs 1b-p-1b 300, Gearhart 3b 000, Fisher dh-1b 100, Troha c 000, Peck c 200, J. Ritchey p-3b 301, R. Ritchey cf 200. Totals — 26-1-4.

SCORE BY INNINGS

South Side Beaver 102 100 1 — 5 8 1

Huntingdon 100 000 0 — 1 4 2

E–Windsor, Mykut 2. 2B–Satler, Holesa, J. Ritchey. RBI–A. Jones 2, McDougal, McCoy, Windsor, Mykut. SB–Woodling 2, Zanic. CS–Satler. SF–McCoy.

PITCHING

South Side Beaver: C. Jones (W)–6 2/3 IP, 4H, 10K, 0BB, 1R, 1ER, 104 pitches; Woodard–1/3 IP, 0H, 0K, 0BB, 0R, 0ER, 3 pitches. Huntingdon: J. Ritchey (L)–2 IP, 1H, 4K, 4BB, 2R, 2ER, 47 pitches; Briggs–1 2/3IP, 5H, 4K, 1BB, 2R, 2ER, 40 pitches; Mykut–3 1/3IP, 2H, 4K, 0BB, 2HBP, 1R, 0ER, 39 pitches.

Records: South Side Beaver (16-5); Huntingdon (21-2).

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