Ask Hopewell baseball coach Morgan Singletary whether he believed his Vikings could make a run to this year’s WPIAL championship game, and he’ll give you an honest answer — but it all depends on when you asked him.
“At the beginning of the season, I thought this was a group that could get here, for sure,” Singletary said. “Then about four weeks ago, if you asked me, I would say not a chance. But the way they’ve been playing these past couple games is how we expected them to play all season.
“It’s not surprising me, but it’s exciting.”
Forgive Singletary if he wasn’t exactly bullish about his team’s championship prospects while entering the postseason as the No. 14 seed in Class 4A. After all, Hopewell is only two years removed from winning a WPIAL Class 3A title in 2021, and the Vikings also made a deep run in last year’s playoffs before falling in the WPIAL semifinals. So Singletary knows exactly what a championship team looks like — and Hopewell did not fit the bill for much of the season.
Despite the rocky regular season, the Vikings (11-11) have survived and advanced through the WPIAL tournament and will now take on No. 5 Latrobe for the Class 4A crown at Wild Things Park next week. Hopewell knocked off No. 7 Indiana, 7-5, in a WPIAL semifinal showdown at Seneca Valley High School on Tuesday.
The score was tied, 4-4, entering the final inning, but the Vikings plated three runs in the top of the seventh before holding off the comeback attempt by the Little Indians (15-8). Senior right-hander Landon Fox picked up the win, striking out nine and walking one while allowing four runs on six hits in six innings of work. Greg Barlion mashed a first-inning home run and finished with a pair of hits on the day for Hopewell, and sophomore David Medich came on in relief to close out the win for the second game in a row.
“This year, [Medich] has seemed to perform better when the pressure has been on, rather than when he is a bit more relaxed,” Singletary said. “These pressure situations seem to help him out.”
After moving up from Class 3A to Class 4A for the current two-year cycle, the Vikings got off to a promising 4-2 start — then promptly stumbled into a seven-game losing streak before finishing the regular season 8-11 overall. They just barely managed to do enough to sneak into the playoffs, and once they did, all bets were off. Hopewell stunned defending WPIAL champion West Mifflin, 2-1, in the opening round, then beat North Catholic, 6-2, in a quarterfinal clash on Monday.
Now, the Vikings are playing with “house money” as Singletary put it — but don’t think for a second that they’re just happy to be there.
“America loves an underdog story,” Singletary said. “This group has found a way to win. They found something to rally behind, and they’re just going with it. It’s great to see. It’s been a fun ride through these playoffs.
“It wasn’t expected, but it’s definitely been fun while we’ve been doing it.”
Other Class 4A
• Defending PIAA champion Montour (19-4) fell one win shy of a third consecutive trip to the WPIAL championship game, as No. 5 Latrobe (17-6) dug itself out of an early 2-0 hole to take an 8-2 lead after four innings before holding on for a 10-7 win at Boyce-Mayview Park in Upper St. Clair. The No. 1 Spartans rallied to cut it to an 8-7 deficit entering the final inning, but the Wildcats tacked on two more insurance runs in the top of the seventh to help seal the victory. Eli Boring went 3 for 5 with a double and three RBIs for Latrobe, while Jake Cramer, Lou Amatucci and Riley Smith each notched a pair of hits for the Wildcats. Nick Walker finished 2 for 3 and drove in five runs for Montour.
• David Posey pitched a complete game while allowing two runs on four hits, and Andrew Hart tallied a pair of hits for No. 2 North Allegheny (16-6) in a 5-2 win over No. 6 Butler (13-9) at Boyce-Mayview Park. Lance Slater hit a two-run homer for the Golden Tornado to tie things up in the top of the third, but the Tigers responded with three runs in the fourth to clinch a spot in the WPIAL championship game.
• After an 0-8 start to the season, No. 5 Mt. Lebanon (12-10) continued its miraculous turnaround by taking down No. 1 Pine-Richland (15-7) in a low-scoring 3-0 affair at North Allegheny High School. The defending champion Blue Devils will now get the chance to go for back-to-back WPIAL titles next week against North Allegheny.
• Derek Leas pitched 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball for No. 1 Shaler (18-4), striking out 10 and allowing only three hits to guide the top-seeded Titans to the WPIAL title game with a 2-0 victory against No. 4 Plum (14-8) at North Allegheny High School. Sophomore Colby Weber registered a pair of Ks in the top of the seventh to close out the shutout win for Shaler.
• No. 2 Bethel Park (17-4) is going back to the WPIAL championship game for the second time in three years after a dramatic 8-5 comeback victory over No. 3 Penn-Trafford (14-6). Dylan Grabowski belted a two-run home run to give the Warriors a 5-3 lead in the top of the fourth, but the two-time defending PIAA champion Black Hawks showed their resilience with a five-run rally in the bottom of the fifth to pull off the win.
• Drake Fox drove in five runs while Ronnie Harper turned in a solid outing to earn the win for No. 1 Riverside (20-0), as the unbeaten Panthers kept their perfect season alive with a resounding 11-2 win against No. 4 East Allegheny (14-6) at Pullman Park in Butler. Led by longtime coach Dan Oliastro — the winningest coach in WPIAL history now in his 55th year at the helm — Riverside will try to become only the ninth team ever to win a WPIAL baseball title with an undefeated record.
• One day after beating No. 3 Yough, 2-1, to snap a streak of four consecutive playoff games going into extra innings, No. 6 Neshannock (18-4) found itself right back in its comfort zone in a 2-1 extra-innings win over No. 2 Avonworth (17-6). The Lancers will now attempt to hand section rival Riverside its first loss of the season in the WPIAL championship game.
• Tyler Skaggs started on the mound and earned the win while also driving in three runs for No. 1 Serra Catholic (19-2) in a 10-0 win against No. 4 Burgettstown (14-4) at Washington & Jefferson College’s Ross Memorial Park. Set to face No. 2 Seton LaSalle in the WPIAL finals, the defending champion Eagles are now one win away from capturing their fifth WPIAL title under longtime coach Brian Dzurenda.
• No. 4 California (14-7) brought a stunning end to No. 1 Union‘s attempt at a WPIAL championship three-peat, breaking open a tie game with three runs in the top of the seventh inning to secure a 9-6 upset win at Ross Memorial Park. The Trojans opened up a 3-0 first-inning lead and took a 6-1 advantage into the top of the fifth before the Scotties (13-5) rallied with four runs in the fifth and another in the sixth to tie the score. Sophomore Chase Cicchitto then came through in the clutch with a two-run double to put California back on top, and junior Kris Weston added another RBI double for some extra cushion. Weston finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs on the afternoon.
Mt. Lebanon 3, Pine-Richland 0
North Allegheny 5, Butler 2
Bethel Park 8, Penn-Trafford 5
Shaler 2, Plum 0
Hopewell 7, Indiana 5
Latrobe 10, Montour 7
Neshannock 2, Avonworth 1
Riverside 11, East Allegheny 2
Serra Catholic 10, Burgettstown 0
Seton LaSalle 2, New Brighton 0
Bishop Canevin 9, Rochester 4
California 9, Union 6
Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.