Falls’ bases-clearing hit leads Wildcats to Final 4
DUBOIS — Central Mountain’s Kaden Falls was perfectly calm prior to his second-inning at-bat against West Allegheny on Thursday in the PIAA 5A quarterfinals. As Falls stepped into the box, the calmness was gone, and a wave of adrenaline rushed into the senior.
Following the burst of energy felt by Falls, he rocketed a bases-clearing double into the right-center alley to give the Wildcats a two-run lead over the Indians. Falls’ three-run hit in the second inning was all Central Mountain needed as it defeated West Allegheny, 3-2, to advance into the state semifinals Monday where they play Bethel Park at a site and time to be determined.
Central Mountain is in the state’s Final Four for the first time since 2008.
“He’s a scrapper,” Central Mountain coach Mike Kramer said. “I was happy for him, I felt good when he was up there. Guys in front of him got on. I feel confident when he stepped into the box. After he barreled the ball into the gap, I wasn’t going to stop Tanner (Swinehart).”
After Falls’ big hit in the second inning — which ultimately won the game — Central Mountain saw ace pitcher Aidan Major and reliever Chase Brush combined to toss a one-hitter and collect seven strikeouts.
Major was one out away from a complete game no-hitter when West Allegheny’s Colin Marinpetro laced a single into the left field.
Kramer said the Wildcats handled their business when it mattered most.
“We played well. We put up the runs when we needed to, Aidan (Major) pitched a whale of a baseball game against a solid hitting team. I am very excited and very proud of these guys for the work they put in, just looking forward to the next game,” Kramer said.
West Allegheny crossed home first as the Indians managed to tally a run in the top of the second to break the scoreless tie. Small ball helped the Indians push the run across as back-to-back sacrifices scored Devan Zirwas.
The Indians’ lone lead of the game was short-lived as Falls delivered his crucial hit in the bottom of the second to give the Wildcats the lead. Central Mountain never let it switch hands again.
West Allegheny went down quietly in the top of the third as Major sat down the side. The Indians cut the deficit in half in the fourth after Gavin Miller scored to make it 3-2. After the solo run in the fourth, Major was dialed in. The right-hander, who was topping out close to 90 mph all afternoon, went on to retire the next nine batters he faced.
“To pitch that game and be that close to a no-hitter, there’s not many words you can say to describe it. Those are the type of games you live for,” Major said.
With a limited number of pitches left and three outs to go, Major trotted out to the mound for the game’s final inning. After forcing a flyout to center and then a strikeout, Major and the Wildcats were one out away. That was when Marinpetro ripped the heart out of Central Mountain’s cheering section by reaching first.
Kramer and the Wildcats did not panic, instead they brought in their sophomore closer Brush, who caught Brayden Horton looking on strikes to end the game and send Central Mountain into the semifinals.
“This is huge for the entire program, to get our names back out there in for everyone,” Major said. “We’re letting everyone know Central Mountain can play some baseball.”
Central Mountain 3, West Allegheny 2
West Allegheny 010 100 0–2 1 1
Central Mountain 030 000 X–3 4 1
W–Aidan Major. L–Devan Zirwas
West Allegheny top hitter: Colin Marinpetro 1-3, 1B. CM top hitters: Kaden Falls 1-3, 3 RBIs, 2B; Cru Stover 1-3, 1B; Gabe Myers 1-2, 1B; Tanner Swinehart 1-3, 1B.