|California pitcher Josh Luko|
Carmichaels head baseball coach Scott VanSickle and California head coach Nick Damico will meet again.
Van Sickle and Damico, former teammates and roommates at Cal U, will pit their teams against one another for the WPIAL Class A title Tuesday night at Consol Energy Park.
It was an unlikely journey for both as Damico took over for longtime Cal coach Don Hartman and Carmichaels seemed to not be able to match the Trojans when the two teams met the first time this season.
One thing was missing in that 14-0 Cal win: Mikes senior pitcher Brandon Lawless, who pitched a two-hit shutout against Riverview in the semifinals Monday night.
Lawless mixes a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball and a slider to combat his opponents. The Raiders looked lost facing the hard-throwing righty, who painted the outside corner of the strike zone with first pitch fastballs before finishing them off with a slider.
I was unable to cover the two teams’ second meeting, when Carmichaels led entering the seventh inning before the Trojans mounted a comeback victory, but I did witness the 14-0 rout. Now that I saw the Mikes battle through the Class A playoffs, its evident that they can compete with California.
As his team celebrated the semifinal victory, VanSickle quickly huddled his players and pointed toward the media that was waiting to interview him and Carmichaels players. “None of these guys think you can beat California. No one does. Go out there under the lights Tuesday and prove everyone wrong.”
After watching California commit four errors and display a lack of pitching depth in its game against Sewickley Academy, I do think the Mikes have a great chance to spoil the Trojans’ undefeated season.
The Mikes will field the following batting order:
Senior second baseman Brennen McMinn
Senior center fielder Ryan Zalar
Junior catcher Michael Blasinsky
Senior shortstop Ty Cole
Sophomore third baseman Billy Bowlen
Freshman designated hitter Joel Spishock
Senior pitcher Brandon Lawless
Senior left fielder Ty Aeschbacher
Senior first baseman Justin Newman
*Senior right fielder Red Long
McMinn offers speed and contact to both sides of the field, Zalar reached base four times Monday, Cole hit a triple in the third before scoring and Bowlen has emerged as one of the Mikes’ top offensive threats.
It’s a senior-laden team that has playoff experience and a coach that is one of the best in the WPIAL. At the beginning of the playoffs, much of the talk surrounding Section 1-A revolved around the perceived lack of competition.
With two of the section’s teams being the last standing in Class A, Cal and Carmichaels have shown that pundits can criticize the rest of the section all they want. Winning in the playoffs is all that matters.
Last month, I thought California would run away with the Class A title. The Trojans have senior pitcher Josh Luko – who was named the Class A Pitcher of the Year by the WPIAL Baseball Coaches Association – and a lineup that physically resembles a Quad-A team.
Here is a look at Cal’s expected lineup in the championship game:
Senior catcher Jake Columbus
Sophomore shortstop Louden Conte
Junior center fielder Aaron Previsky
Senior third baseman Ronnie Baron
Senior pitcher Josh Luko
Senior second baseman Mike Luketich
Sophomore left fielder Casey Zajicek
Freshman first baseman Nathan Luketich
Senior designated hitter Gavin Anderson
Senior right fielder Robbie DeFranco
Lawless will need to stay ahead of the count against Cal’s top-half of the order and prevent Columbus from getting on base. He went 5-for-5 Monday against Sewickley and energized the Trojans when defensive woes crippled their momentum.
Carmichaels will need to keep the bases empty when Previsky and Baron step to the plate. The pair will make teams pay. Baron is one of the most fundamentally sound players I have seen and shows great discipline at the plate. Cal only has four home runs all season, but its players have power to the gaps that often leads to ridiculous run totals.
The WPIAL Class A championship game will not disappoint. The two best pitchers in Class A will face off with two high-powered offenses battling for supremacy. Damico was able to breath a sigh of relief after Cal defeated Sewickley, but his game next week against his longtime friend will bring plenty of stress.
Prediction: Carmichaels will surprise everyone with a win. The Mikes’ defense will make the difference and their speed makes them a threat on the bases. Four stolen bases Monday led to runs and with Lawless on the mound, I don’t think it is going to take 15 runs to take down the Trojans this time.