BUTLER - Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic smacked the ball hard all Monday afternoon.
Problem is, the Marauders just hit it right at Neshannock fielders most of the time.
Bishop Guilfoyle failed to generate much offense as it dropped a 2-0 decision to the Lancers in a PIAA Class A first-round game at Pullman Park.
Of course, Neshannock pitcher Alex Strittmatter and his infielders played a big part in frustrating the Marauders (16-7). The senior righty struck out seven and yielded just three hits, while the Lancers turned three straight inning-ending double plays to stifle Bishop Guilfoyle.
"It's a tough game to swallow. It's such a tough loss," Marauders coach Bill Wolf said. "We hit it right at people. Some days, that's just how it goes. Losing isn't a good feeling."
It was a duel of two aces in Strittmatter and Bishop Guilfoyle's Jextin Pugh. Pugh allowed two hits and fanned seven.
"We talked a lot about them and how good Jextin Pugh is and I think it might have ticked [Strittmatter] off a little bit," Neshannock coach Mike Kirkwood said. "He did a great job and went after them. That's all we can ask. Whenever we put him on the mound the last couple years he's been lights out."
Neshannock (22-2) struck for a pair of runs - both unearned - in the bottom of the first. With one out, Pugh hit Matt Cioffi. He was replaced by courtesy runner Connor Jones. John Sansone, a Florida State recruit, followed with a short chopper up the third base line. Pugh fielded the ball and threw wildly to first. The ball sailed into right field, which allowed Jones to come home and Sansone to move to third.
Sansone scampered home on a wild pitch to the next Lancers batter to push the lead to 2-0.
"Those two unearned runs were the story of the game really," Wolf said. "In that first inning, we had just talked about it being no-man's land down there and we wound up throwing it right there."
The Lancers were thrilled to push across some runs so early.
"Especially against (Pugh). We thought we might have to get to him early or we might not get to him at all," Kirkwood said. "We didn't execute a couple situations and left some guys on base, but it's a credit to him as much as it is to us for not getting it done."
Neshannock threatened to add to its lead in the bottom of the second. Two walks sandwiched around an Ernie Burkes bunt single loaded the bases with an out. However, Pugh got Cioffi to pop out and fanned Sansone to end the threat.
The Lancers were within striking distance in the bottom of the fourth. However, Cioffi popped up a suicide squeeze bunt to Pugh, who tossed to third to complete the inning-ending double play.
The Marauders' T.J. Krol, Pugh and Mike Pleva singled in the third, fourth and fifth innings, respectively. However, the innings ended on groundball double plays.
Bishop Guilfoyle hopes to rebound next year. The team graduates shortstop Jared Keller and first baseman Nick Johnson, but returns everyone else.
"Overall, it was a great season. I don't think anyone thought we'd be here," Wolf said. "It gives us something to build on for next year. We only lose two players and we started a lot of young kids and they got good experience. Hopefully, this experience will carry over to next year."
BISHOP GUILFOYLE (0): Irwin 2b 300, Pugh p 301, Keller ss 300, Johnson 1b 300, Pleva c 301, Stewart 3b 000, Sweeney dh 200, Krol cf 201, Adams rf 100, Cursio lf 200. Totals - 22-0-3.
NESHANNOCK (2): Strittmatter p 200, Sanfilippo cr 000, Cioffi c 300, Jones, cr 010, Sansone ss 210, VanEman lf 301, Conglose 2b 200, Ross 1b 300, Welker rf 100, Giangiuli cf 300, Burkes 3b 101. Totals - 20-2-2.
SCORE BY INNINGS
Bishop Guilfoyle 000 000 0 -0 3 1
Neshannock 200 000 x-2 2 1
E-Pugh, Conglose. LOB- Bishop Guilfoyle 1, Neshannock 10. 2B-VanEman. SB- Burkes 2, Conglose, Strittmatter, Sansone.
Pugh (L)-6 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 7 SO.
Strittmatter (W)-7 IP 3 H 0 R 0 ER 1BB 7 SO.
HBP-By Pugh (Cioffi, Strittmatter) WP-Pugh.
Records: Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic (16-7); Neshannock (22-2).