Rockwood outslugged by Portage in WestPAC baseball championship

·5 min read

CRESSON — For three innings, Rockwood had the right recipe for success in its bid to upset defeated Portage in the WestPAC Championship game.

But in the end, the Mustangs’ experience mixed with their potent offense overwhelmed the Rockets 18-8 in a shortened 6-inning affair to win their second consecutive conference title on Monday at Mount Aloysius College.

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Going into the sixth leading 11-7, Portage sent 12 batters to the plate and scored seven runs to seal off any hopes of a comeback.

There was no frustration, though, on the part of the Rockets (11-3-1), who gave the Mustangs all they could handle through four innings.

“I’m really proud of my team and my coaches,” said Rockwood coach Steve Barto. “We’ve had a really good year so far, we’re not done. We took them to a place they hadn’t been, and it showed in the early innings when we were battling.”

What it means

Portage (18-0) will make the move to the Heritage Conference in all sports beginning in the 2022-23 academic year. The Mustangs made the most of their final opportunity to rule the WestPAC.

After last year’s dramatic 4-3 walkoff win over Berlin Brothersvalley gave them their first conference championship since 2004, this one was far less compelling—at least in the way it ended.

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The Mustangs can only hope to carry over some of their recent success to their new home in a far more balanced conference overall.

“I think it means a lot to the school,” said Portage coach Larry McCabe of the win. “We knew this was the last chance to win a WestPAC title. We watched our boys basketball team win it, and I’ve got a handful of those players on this team. We did it again here.”

Meanwhile, it was the second time in three seasons that the Rockets have represented the WestPAC South in the conference title game. But much like their 10-0 setback to Conemaugh Township in 2019, they came away with another silver medal after running into a stiff WestPAC North foe.

Key plays

Trailing 5-3 heading into the top of the fourth, Portage flipped the game on its side with five runs to regain the lead for good.

The Mustangs worked four walks in the inning and had just two hits, but only one left the infield against the combination of starter Jack Pletcher and reliever Aaron Show.

Rockwood posted its own five spot in the bottom of the second inning after sending 10 batters to the plate.

Pletcher singled to start and a sacrifice bunt moved him to second. Carson Brown doubled him in with a liner into the gap. Hunter Whipkey reached on an error and Carson Modrak walked to load the bases.

Two bases-loaded walks by Portage starter Andrew Miko to Show and Andrew Weaver tied the game at 3-all. Jonathan Felesky’s 2-RBI single gave the Rockets a short-lived 5-3 lead.

By the numbers

Portage’s Tyler Alexander had a memorable day to say the least. The Mustangs’ senior leadoff hitter went 5-for-5 at the plate, including two doubles and a triple, drove in three runs and scored five times.

“This is the first time I’ve had a five-hit game,” said Alexander. “My approach up there in the box was just to go up there and be aggressive, see pitches, see fast balls and rip.”

Miko, who started and threw two innings, giving up five runs on four hits, reached base all five times and had four hits, including a 2-RBI triple in the Mustang’s sixth inning, scored three runs and totaled three RBIs.

Luke Scarton came on in relief for the Mustangs and mostly quieted the Rockets’ bats, allowing just three runs over the final four innings.

Pletcher started and gave up eight runs on seven hits in 3 ⅓ innings pitched for the Rockets. Show took over and surrendered 10 runs on nine hits with seven walks.

Unsung heroes

Senior Kaden Claar had two singles and scored two runs for the Mustangs. Adam Staski hit a 2-RBI triple and scored three runs.

Weaver, a Mansfield University commit, was on base four times, including two singles. He also scored two runs. Felesky picked up three RBIs and doubled. Brown and Pletcher both had two hits.

They said it

Rockwood’s eight runs were the most Portage had surrendered all season. The Mustangs found themselves in unfamiliar territory playing from behind for a short amount of time.

That had plenty to do with the problems Rockwood’s lineup posed.

“Rockwood is a good ball club,” McCabe said. “They have some very talented players. We knew that coming in and we tried to do what we could to silence them. But it didn’t work all the time.”

Up next

Portage will await its first opponent in the District 6 playoffs. It has already clinched a home game, and just one win would send the Mustangs to the state playoffs.

The Rockets still have to finish their regular season schedule. They have matchups with Ferndale and Hyndman set for Wednesday and Friday of this week.

Rockwood has been part of three championship games in the past three years, including a district title game in 2019 where it lost in nine innings to Forbes Road.

And despite settling for silver in all three contests, coach Steve Barto said he knows there’s still a golden opportunity for his club coming up.

“We’re going into the playoffs knowing that we’re a better team than we showed in the last three innings here,” said Barto. “We just had a rough couple of innings. We’re going to get better, continue to remain focused and remain classy.”

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This article originally appeared on The Daily American: Portage's high-powered offense overwhelms Rockwood in WestPAC title