By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Canon-McMillan was like a “closer” in the regular season, winning seven of its final eight games after starting the season 5-6.
North Hills started fast and then leaked oil near the end, losing six of nine after starting the year 10-1.
A new season started Monday in the WPIAL playoffs, but Canon-McMillan and North Hills took on the same identities.
North Hills started great, stumbled late and Canon-McMillan came charging through for a 7-6 victory in a Class AAAA first-round game at North Allegheny.
North Hills (13-8), the No. 10 seed, was trying to win onlyits second playoff game since the 1980s and led, 6-2, after five innings. But errors and mental mistakes opened the door, and No. 7 seed Canon-McMillan scored five times in the final two innings to pull out the win. The Big Macs scored three in the seventh and Josh Palma’s single to right-center drove in the winning run.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” said Tim Bruzdewicz, Canon-McMillan’s first-year coach. “You see this never-quit attitude. That’s what these kids have. They have that internal toughness and they’re not going to quit until the final out.”
Meanwhile, it was a bitter loss for North Hills, which had two errors in the final two innings and also failed to cover a base on a force play. Brendan Burke pitched the first six innings, but hit 100 pitches and was relieved by Mike Serpa in the seventh.
“I told our guys that this is a microcosm of the season,” said a distraught North Hills coach Randy Miller. “You start strong and finish weak. We had a horrible finish to section play and a horrible finish to this playoff game. You have a 6-2 lead and you have to make routine plays. There were no plays that were difficult.
“That [Canon-McMillan] team had no quit. They were the exact opposite of what we did. We peaked April 20 and limped to this point. I feel bad for our seven seniors because we beat ourselves. It’s a tough ending.”
Luke Chutko’s single, double and three RBIs helped propel North Hills to the four-run lead. Canon-McMillan started sophomore Zach Rohaley and brought in freshman Cam Weston in the fifth.
For Canon-McMillan, standout catcher Tanner Piechnick reached base on a hit batter, two walks and an RBI single. Cam Walker and Ian Hess started the winning rally in the seventh inningwith a single and double.
“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” said Bruzdewicz. “We’re doing the right things. We started really slow, but these young kids keep coming on and on.”
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.