Forbes Road 4 Rockwood 3
Somerset, Pa. – It had been fifteen years since Forbes Road played in a District V Championship Game. Mother Nature insisted they wait just a few more days for their second opportunity. After rain washed out the Championship tilt on Wednesday and Thursday, the second seeded Cardinals finally took the field against top seeded Rockwood on Friday at Somerset. The matchup was Rockwood’s first appearance in the title contest.
The Cardinals faced a tall task in Rockwood ace hurler Troy Emert. Emert entered the day with a 7-1 record, 1.48 ERA, and 90 strikeouts in 56 innings of work. The Rocket ace proved every bit as tough as his statistics showed, striking out 10 Cardinals through 5 1/3 innings of work. The punchouts did not come easily, though. Forbes Road managed seven hits and two walks off Emert, battling through long at bats to force his pitch count to the maximum. The Cardinals countered with junior southpaw Caleb Hershey. Hershey started his third consecutive playoff game, and turned in another strong performance.
Both teams put runners on base in the first two innings, but could not turn those opportunities into runs. Matt Clippinger’s stop of Carson Modrak’s one hopper in the second was easily the defensive highlight of the day. With one out and a runner on first, Modrak hit a hot shot up the middle. Clippinger dove to his right to snare the one-hopper, then flipped to Caleb Voegel at second for the force out, squelching the Rocket rally.
The Cardinals opened the scoring in the third. Grayson Hall lined the Cardinals’ first hit of the day to centerfield, then fellow seniors Kole Kendall and Logan Deshong followed with singles of their own to plate Hall.
That 1-0 lead held until the fourth. Emert singled to lead off the home half of the fourth, stole second, then scored on Andrew Weaver’s bouncer through the middle. Weaver scampered home on a passed ball later that inning, giving Rockwood a 2-1 lead through four complete.
Forbes Road answered immediately. Hall led off the fifth with his second single of the day. Kole Kendall’s sacrifice bunt attempt was unsuccessful, as Emert forced Hall at second base. Levi Truax worked a two out walk to push Kendall to second, then Ethan Wright roped a double to centerfield to tie the game at 2-2.
Emert exited in the sixth, reaching the pitch count limit of 105. Jack Pletcher held the Cardinals through the remainder of the sixth. Logan Deshong led off the seventh with a single down the third base line, then advanced to second when the Rockwood leftfielder mishandled the ball. After advancing to third on Levi Truax’s sacrifice bunt, Deshong sprinted home with the go ahead run on Ethan Wright’s groundout to the pitcher.
Hershey also exited after 5 1/3 innings of work, surrendering two runs, one earned, on five hits and two free passes. Hershey struck out five. Grayson Hall was on in relief, and appeared ready to close out the win in the seventh. After retiring the first two Rockets, Hall seemingly lost the strike zone. Four consecutive free passes tied the game before a flyout ended regulation play.
Neither team could score in the eighth, but the Cardinals scratched out a run in the ninth. Deshong walked and advanced on another Truax sacrifice bunt. Wright lined a single to center to chase home Deshong, giving the Cardinals a 4-3 lead. A flyout and strikeout again pushed the Rockets to the brink of elimination before Emert singled through the left side. Emert swiped second to move into scoring position before Weaver’s flyball to Kendall in right field ended the threat. The 4-3 win is the Cardinals’ second District V baseball championship.
The Cardinals collected ten hits in total. Seniors Ethan Wright (3-5, 2B, 3 RBI), Grayson Hall (2-3, 2 BB, 1 R), and Logan Deshong (2-4, 2 R, 1 RBI) collected multiple hits. The Rockets managed seven hits, with Emert’s 2-4 day the lone multi-hit performance.
Both teams advance to the PIAA state playoffs on Monday. Forbes Road (14-6) will host District 6 runner-up St Joseph’s Catholic Academy. That game will be played at McConnellsburg High School. Rockwood (16-6) faces District 7 champion California at Greater Latrobe High School.