BUTLER - Facing a long bus ride, the Altoona baseball team made sure it didn't forget anything at home.
Turns out, the Mountain Lions packed some extra offense, just in case.
Altoona erupted for 12 hits Monday in a 9-4 win over Seneca Valley in a PIAA Class AAAA first-round game at Pullman Park.
"We finally broke out. We have not been hitting for weeks," Altoona coach Tom Smith said. "We had 12 hits, and I think they robbed us of three or four. They made some really nice plays in the field. We were positive, though. Even our outs, we were hitting the ball hard. We were attacking their first pitch. Offensively, if you put up a nine-spot, you better find a way to win.
"We played a very solid game. We deserved to win because we played good ball for seven innings."
Altoona (16-5) will look for a way to win in Thursday's quarterfinals when it meets Mt. Lebanon, a 7-4 winner over McDowell.
"They are pretty solid, too. At this point, you better bring your 'A' game, or you're going to go home," Smith said. "We've seen them one time, and we knew they are a solid team. If we bring our 'A' game, we'll be fine."
The Mountain Lions were ready to go against the Raiders (18-5), the WPIAL champs.
Altoona erupted for five runs in the top of the second. Ben Wyland drew a walk, and Anthony Lombardo was hit by a pitch. After a strikeout, Dylan Oswalt singled to load the bases. Jaret Berardinelli drew a walk to score Wyland. Shea Stayer followed with a two-run single, and Christian Helsel ripped a two-run double for a 5-0 lead.
Seneca Valley responded in the bottom half of the inning with three runs of its own. Three-straight singles loaded the bases, and Connor Coward and Zach Creedon both legged out run-scoring infield singles. The third run came across when Helsel hit Brad Gresock with the bases loaded.
The Mountain Lions tacked on a run in the top of the fourth. Stayer and Helsel stroked one-out singles. After a groundout, Stayer scampered home on a wild pitch for a 6-3 advantage.
Altoona had a chance to pad its lead in the top of the fifth. After an out, Lombardo, Chris Sinisi and Oswalt singled in succession. However, Berardinelli hit into a double play to end the threat.
The Raiders got that run back in the bottom half of the inning on Sam Fragale's two-out solo homer to deep right to make it a 6-4 game.
Lombardo's two-run double highlighted a three-run sixth for the Mountain Lions. Jake Chesney added a run-scoring single in the frame as they expanded their lead to 9-4.
Helsel, an Ole Miss recruit, closed out the game with a scoreless sixth and seventh. He finished with 10 strikeouts to earn the win. He led the way offensively with two doubles and a single.
"He pitched a great game. He had one tough inning. After that, he was pretty much in control, Smith said. "He did a nice job offensively."
Helsel was happy to close out the game.
"I took it upon myself (on the mound) to give our team a chance to win and our offense did an absolutely amazing job," he said. "They threw three good pitchers and we scored nine runs. That gave me a lot of breathing room. I gave up nine hits and that's by the far the most I've given up all year. Those guys did a good job, too, but we came out with the win and that's all that matters.
"We were so pumped up for this game. That's the WPIAL champ we just beat. Everybody was ready to go and everybody was ready to get some clutch hits, which they did," he continued. "We want to win a state championship. That's our goal."
ALTOONA (9): Helsel p 413, Green lf 400, Fink 1b 310, Chesney ph 101, Wyland 3b 320, Lombardo c 302, Negri cr 010, Sinisi 2b 402, Oswalt cf 412, Berardinelli ss 310, Stayer rf 422. Totals - 33-9-12.
SENECA VALLEY (4) Dorogy cf 400, Gresock c 300, Fragale ss 411, Bream 1b 413, Spangler dh/p 401, Bredl cr 010, Martin rf/p 301, Kessler 3b 301, Coward lf 311, Creedon ss 302, DeTillio p 000. Totals - 31-4-10
SCORE BY INNINGS
Altoona050 103 0-9 12 0
Seneca Valley 030 010 0-4 10 1
E- Creedon. 2B-.Helsl 2, Lombardo, HR- Fragale RBI- Lombardo 2, Stayer 2, Helsl 2, Berardinelli, Coward, Chesney, Creedon, Gresock, Fragale.WP- Spangler.
Altoona: Helsel (W) 7 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 10 SO
Seneca Valley: DeTillio (L) 1 1/3 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO
Spangler 3 1/3 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO
Martin 1 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO
HBP-By DeTillio (Lombardo), By Helsl (Gresock).
Records: Seneca Valley (18-5); Altoona (16-5).