In a previous edition, the Observer-Reporter sports staff narrowed down a lengthy list to the top 10 sports stories of 2018. It allowed a time to reflect on the year that was when the calendar flips in the blink of an eye.
It got me to thinking, “What led to those moments?”
And, “Who made those moments possible?”
Accomplishments that make the hair raise on the back of your neck as you watch them unfold. Moments that, however unexpected, turn out to be ones that we will remember forever.
Here is my list of top five individual performances on a single day for 2018 by high school athletes in what turned out to be a wild, and wonderful, year:
1. Rohaley fans North Allegheny: It might have been the defining moment of the long run the Canon-McMillan High School baseball team would go on to win the PIAA Class 6A title.
With a 2-1 lead against rival North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class 6A championship, pitcher Zach Rohaley surrendered a leadoff triple in the sixth inning. What looked to be a disaster for the Big Macs ended in a moment that will not be forgotten by those who packed Wild Things Park.
Facing the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters in the North Allegheny lineup, Rohaley struck out the first two swinging then the final one looking to preserve the one-run lead that helped Canon-McMillan win its first WPIAL championship in school history. The only other titles, in 1935 and 1936, were when it was called Canonsburg High School.
Rohaley, the first three-time Observer-Reporter Baseball Most Valuable Player, allowed only four hits and struck out nine in 6 ²/³ innings.
The heart-stopping win was one of eight career playoff victories for the right-hander, who also started in C-M’s state championship victory over Bensalem.
2. Williamson wows with 51: Alexa Williamson had plenty of commanding performances in her career for the Chartiers-Houston girls basketball team.
None more than an opening-round state playoff game against Cambridge Academy in early March.
Using her size, speed and strength to overwhelm the Blue Devils, Williamson scored a local playoff scoring record with 51 points in a 75-43 win, and she didn’t even play the final four minutes of the game. She also grabbed 13 rebounds.
Williamson made 21 baskets in the lane and nine free throws to reach the 51 points, which was five points shy of breaking a single-game record for a WPIAL girls player. Brooke Stewart of East Allegheny scored 56 points in a district playoff game 22 years ago.
It was a game that defined her time at Chartiers-Houston: dominant.
Williamson, who was the Observer-Reporter Girls Basketball Player of the Year, finished her career with 2,213 points, second in Washington County history to McGuffey’s Sammie Weiss (2,390). The now Temple freshman missed half of her sophomore season because of a knee injury.
3. Lampe shines in state title: If big players make big plays in big games, then what McKenna Lampe did to help West Greene win back-to-back PIAA Class A softball championships was massive.
On a mid-June day, Lampe hit for the cycle – single, double, triple and home run – to spark the Pioneers’ 11-7 win over Williams Valley at Penn State.
It was the second straight title for West Greene over Williams Valley, including the the dramatic, come-from-behind 9-8 victory in 2017.
Standing in the left-handed batters’ box, Lampe gave the Pioneers a 3-1 lead in the second inning when she launched a two-run homer over the center field fence. She doubled home a run in the fourth inning, had a bunt single to put runners in scoring position later and finished the rare feat with a triple that scored two runs with a fly ball over the left fielder for Williams Valley.
Lampe ended the game going 4-for-5 with four RBI and scoring three runs.
4. Trimbur too much for TJ: In a jovial postgame press conference at Heinz Field, the first question asked to the five South Fayette football players was not directed at any one individual in particular.
The nonverbal answers of four of them told the story.
The four other players, to Mike Trimbur’s right and left as he was positioned in the middle, looked at him, at least for the first response.
One of the core players for South Fayette, Trimbur played a pivotal role to keep the Lions clawing enough to mount a 31-24 comeback victory over Thomas Jefferson in the WPIAL Class 4A championship in November.
Trimbur had five catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including an 82-yarder where he wiggled past a pair of TJ defenders for the score. His most important play came in the waning moments, intercepting a pass inside the South Fayette two-yard line with 47 seconds left to seal the victory. The Jaguars were driving for the tying score.
The Lions outscored TJ, 21-3, in the second half en route to their sixth WPIAL championship, and fourth in the last nine years.
“I thought in the fourth quarter we had all the energy and momentum,” South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said in the postgame interviews. “We gave that away a little bit until (Trimbur) made one of the best plays in our history.”
5. Behm breaks record: Never one to show his emotions, Waynesburg High School pole vaulter Will Behm couldn’t hold back on a May afternoon in the WPIAL Track & Field Championships at Baldwin High School.
Having already won the gold medal in the Class AA vault, Behm placed the bar at a specific height he had been chasing since 2015. It was the WPIAL Class AA record of 14-9 held by Evan Lesnick of Riverview.
“I knew 14-9 was the record,” Behm said. “It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.”
Setting the bar one inch higher at 14-10, Behm forced changes to the record book by clearing the mark without even grazing the bar. It was the highest vault in both classifications, topping North Allegheny’s Jono Pelusi’s 14-9 gold-medal-winning mark in Class AAA.
“Will is what I call a tenacious competitor,” said longtime Waynesburg vaulting coach Butch Brunell. “You can’t tell by looking at him. He is quiet but inside he wants it really bad. You can’t teach that.”