3 teams vie for D10 titles on Monday

Three county teams made the District 10 baseball or softball playoffs this season, and all three have advanced to Monday’s championship games.

All three teams have interesting stories.

Two – the Warren baseball and softball teams – return to the District 10 finals, with the Dragons set to defend their District 10 Class AAA baseball title from a year ago at 1:30 p.m. at Slippery Rock University, right after Eisenhower plays there. Last year, the Dragons won the program’s first District 10 baseball championship in 35 years.

After graduating nine seniors – all starters in the D10 title game, and with Rick Eaton switching seats from assistant to head coach, the goal was to make the playoffs and see what happens.

Now that Warren has slugged out a quarterfinals win over General McLane and came from behind (with two outs in the seventh inning) for a dramatic 3-1 win on Friday over Prep, the Dragons can see what happens in the D10 final. It’s the fourth straight year a Warren team is in the championship game.

“There was definitely talent there – they went something like 15-2 as a jayvee group, so we knew there was a lot of talent there; they just had a lot of seniors and talent ahead of them,” said Eaton. “But that gave them a good opportunity to mesh as a group.

“I knew we were young, but the program wasn’t dry,” he said. “It was how fast they matured and how they developed during the year, and they’ve truly gotten better.”

Eaton said the Dragons will be playing a Slippery Rock team that has a young coach, “and they are very disciplined. Their forte is pitching and defense, and that’s our forte, too.”

Slippery Rock senior Cody Stephenson is the Rockets’ likely starting pitcher, and he threw a complete-game shutout in a 1-0 win over Harbor Creek in the quarterfinals. Slippery Rock (12-7) also won the semifinal game in dramatic fashion with a 2-1 walkoff win over Grove City Friday.

“He’s 8-0 with a 1-something ERA, and he’s won every game he’s went out there,” said Eaton.

Warren (15-5) will likely start sophomore Tanner Stanz, who is 7-1 with a 1.33 ERA.

While pitching and defense is Warren’s “forte,” the Dragons have seven batters hitting over .300 – Collin Fantaskey (.438), Stanz (.381), Austin Schwanke (.357), Ed Ord (.333), Matt Hultquist (.311), Carter Cerra (.311) and Todd Fasenmyer (.302), and seven with 10 or more RBI.

Eaton also said this group of players “play a lot of other sports, so everybody has been on the stage somewhere in other sports.”

Both of Warren’s games are at the same time, with the Lady Dragons (16-1) returning for a fifth straight year to the D10 championship game, against two-time defending champ Fort LeBoeuf (15-4) at 2 p.m. at Penn State Behrend.

Neither team is a stranger to big games, with several of Fort LeBoeuf’s players from its state championship volleyball team, and LeBoeuf has defeated Warren the past two years in the championship game.

“The first thing we are talking about is to focus on the things we’ve done well against them,” said Warren coach Mark Bupp, whose Dragons defeated LeBoeuf 9-0 on May 9 to tie the Bison for the Region 7 title, each 11-1 in region. “Even the first game, we lost 3-2, but there were a few things we did well.

“We need to build on the momentum from the last couple of games,” said Bupp. “From one to nine, we don’t need to rely on one person to carry the load.”

And Bupp said, starting with the seniors on down, “they are pretty even-keeled kids… so I think their ability to pretty-much lead that way has come across to their teammates that way. I think a lot of these kids have played on a big stage at some point.”

So the championship game will come down to execution.

“We need to do just what we did in that last game we played them, get up on top, play solid ‘D’ and not let them build any momentum,” said Bupp, who has six regulars, led by Paige Wilson at .610, batting over .400. “And if we don’t, we just need to (dig in a little bit).”

Warren junior pitcher Alexa Bupp lowered her ERA 0.53 with a 12-strikeout 10-0 shutout of Hickory in the semifinals on Thursday. She is 15-1 with 132 strikeouts, 17 walks and 40 hits allowed in 93 innings this season.

For Eisenhower, this was a team that went 5-11 in the regular season, but is now 1-0 in the playoffs and plays Cochranton (10-6) at 11 a.m. Monday in the District 10 Class A final at Slippery Rock University.

“I pretty much told them today that these seniors are my first freshman class and there’s nothing I want to see more than for them to go out with a District 10 championship,” said Ike coach Jon Vincent.

Despite a rough season, the Knights (6-11) are in position to do just that.

“Some of them have really taken to it,” said Vincent. “I just have a good feeling about this. I told my kids at the beginning of the year that we have a good team. Our record doesn’t indicate that… I think our hitting is starting to pick up at the right time, and I told the kids today that, if we don’t make mistakes, we’ll win the game. We’ve made a lot of them through the year, but I think we’ve learned from it.”

Vincent looks to match Cochranton pitcher Ryan Northcott, who drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning and tossed a three-hit shutout in a 1-0 win over Kennedy Catholic, with freshman Casey Vincent.

Vincent has pitched in big games in travel ball and Little League through the years, but is also Ike’s ace this year at 5-2.