Erie – the same city. same difference. Same result.
Exactly one year after Cathedral Prep eliminated Slippery Rock from the 2021 baseball playoffs at Erie’s UPMC Park, the Ramblers won the 22nd District 10 overall by cutting the Rockets 11-7 Monday evening in the Class 4A Finals at Mercyhurst University.
“It’s not the way we wanted this season to end,” said Slippery Rock’s first-year coach Derek Wood after a nearly 30-second hiatus to gather himself and fight back tears. “Honestly, I’m emotional now, because these guys put in a lot of work to get here and they wanted it to be really bad, so it’s tough. We can’t frown. We’ve done everything we need to do to get here and to give ourselves a chance.”
“We were there with (Cathedral Prep), but I’m so proud of my guys. I hope they realize how proud everyone – their family, friends and the whole community – are of them. It’s been five years since this program has been here, so it’s not something that gets done all the time. Any time you get to this point, there have been so many sacrifices and it’s easy to forget all the good moments that happened along the way. What a season, what a season!”
With the loss, the Rockets (17-6) bid farewell to senior Shane Thompson, Joe Michele, Andrew Masella, Walker Vaughan and Alexei Zahn.
“We’ll miss our seniors,” Wood said. “I just wish we could do it for them here today. It was impossible for anyone in the lower tier to feel left out this season with the friendship and guidance from our seniors. Day in and day out, they have built the culture of this team.
“Coming in as the new head coach, I had my idea of what I wanted and seeing what the season would look like, and then I met these guys and realized they controlled everything. That took a lot of my plate. They were role models and the guys followed through. Most importantly, these guys made everyone a part. them and make everyone better.”
After the Ramblers (21-2) clinched an early 1-0 lead in the first half, Slippery Rock battled back and netted four runs in the bottom second over RBIs Brody Galcik, Ryan Montgomery, Lucas Allison and Thompson to take the 4-1 lead.
Rocket’s advantage proved short-lived as Cathedral Prep broke out for five runs in five strikes at the top of the third to regain the lead.
“We put 4 points there in the second half, but unfortunately, they answered at right-back,” Wood said. “Before we went out (for the top three), I asked the guys if they thought they were going to lie down? They understood they wouldn’t and it was going to be a seven innings fight.”
The Ramblers cemented their lead to 8-4 with two more runs in the fourth, but Slippery Rock made it 8-6 to fifth after back-to-back braces from Brett Galcik and Sal Mineo to open the inning.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” Wood said. “It was easy to play 8-4 but we didn’t. We fought again.”
Cathedral Prep gave itself some breathing room in sixth with three points before Mineo rounded out the scoring with a three-second lead in the afternoon and scored on Ethan Druschel’s second stroke.
“We made some mistakes here today, but it’s not just about today and this match,” Wood said. It’s what I want these guys to understand. They are winners. It’s easy to hang their heads over the result here today, but there’s no reason to. They made their school so proud, their families so proud, and their coaching staff so proud. They’ve come to a point in The season hasn’t been this long for her, so my hat goes to them.”
Mineo captured half of the rocket’s eight hits by Jannon recruit Jacob Engel and junior junior high Jason Fultz, who teamed up to hit five hits and walk eight.
Mineo got a pair of triples, a double and a single, while leading the run.
Thompson and Ryan Doble shared hill missions with Slippery Rock, allowing 11 runs with nine strokes, while hitting seven and walking eight.
“With the way an attacker can score hits, we knew we were in a fight all seven rounds and we would need a lot of players to step up whether it be throwing, throwing or defensive,” Wood said. “I thought our defense did a good job all the way and our bowlers attacked the hitters. They weren’t thinking twice. They were just chasing after them.
“Sal is a man from first to last pitch and he will never give up. He is always so zigzag. He is never high, never low. He is always humble and has a bright future. It is very exciting to watch him play and I can’t wait to continue doing that.”
Notes: The Ramblers also ended Slippery Rock’s season with a 7-2 victory in the semi-finals on Memorial Day 2021 at UPMC Park in downtown Erie. … Drushel (two), Allison, Thompson, Mineo, Brody Galcik, and Montgomery are certified with RBIs for Slippery Rock … The Rockets had two Fault Prep. … Ramblers coach Joshua Constable received a second-half warning for arguing balls and hits. …Cathedral Prep (21-2) will play the third seed WPIAL – either Laurel Highlands or Knoch – on June 6 at a location and time to be determined. … Luke Costello (two singles, three RBIs) and Jason Fultz (singles, doubles, three RBIs) were the only Rambler to hit multiple hits, while Cole Constable and Andrew Malec doubled. …the first missile strike out of the first five rounds was safely reached.