As a No. 16 seed, and playing a No. 1 seed, Waynesburg knew it’d be up against it facing the Hopewell Vikings.
The Raiders’ hope for an upset rested in the return of pitcher Tyler Switalski, whose work in 2021 had been limited to one inning because of a sprained wrist.
Switalski held his own, going five innings and giving up four runs on six hits, but it was Hopewell’s Roman Gill who stole the show on the mound in the Vikings’ 4-0 win Thursday at Ross Memorial Park. Gill went all seven innings, pitching a four-hit shutout, striking out six and not issuing a walk.
“He struggled a little at the beginning of the game,” Hopewell coach Morgan Singletary said. “He had a lot of full counts, got his pitch count up a little at the beginning. But he settled in, and that’s what we expect him to do.”
Hopewell (14-5) scored three more runs than Gill needed but did it unconventionally. The Vikings scored the game’s first run via, of all things, the strikeout.
With Couper Stala on third, Switalski fanned Chris Mullins, and catcher Matt Ankrom threw to first base to complete the play. The problem was, Stala broke for the plate and scored.
“We’re an aggressive baserunning team,” Singletary said. “We stole a lot of bases today. We have speed … we used it. They know that. They know how to be aggressive.”
The Vikings got their second run in the third when Chris Mullins scored on a wild pitch. Their third run came more traditionally than the first two, with Gill helping his own cause with an RBI single.
Hopewell got another in the fourth on Anthony LaSala’s RBI double.
“It’s definitely not how we drew it up,” Singletary said. “Offensively, we thought it was going to go a little bit different, but we did what we needed to do.”
Waynesburg coach Jaime Moore was pleased with how Switalski performed in his first start.
“I give him all kind of credit for how he was able to perform,” Moore said. “It was his first start of the year, and he pitched a really respectable game. So, I was pleased with his performance. He kept us in it.”
The Raiders (5-10) ended what was a bumpy 2021 season, while Hopewell will move on and look to win a WPIAL title.
“We struggled,” Moore said. “We had ups and downs, a lot of adversity we tried to battle through. We were without Tyler for most of the season. He definitely gave us a boost coming back with some offensive power, and just his presence I think boosted our confidence a little bit. We were happy to make the playoffs. We kind of snuck in last minute, and I feel like we played a respectable game today against a good team.”