In need of direction, Riverside didn’t turn to Garmin to navigate its way to a WPIAL title and keep its unbeaten season alive Wednesday.
As the Panthers saw it, why go with Garmin when they had the Garvins?
Mitch Garvin’s two-run double snapped a sixth-inning tie and brother Hunter pitched the final 2⅓ innings to earn the win as Riverside used a late offensive outburst to beat Neshannock, 6-1, in the WPIAL Class 3A championship at Wild Things Park.
Riverside (21-0), the No. 1 seed, became only the ninth team since 1960 to win a WPIAL title with a perfect record. It was the sixth title for the Panthers, all six under coach Dan Oliastro, who is in his 55th season and the WPIAL’s all-time winningest coach.
It was win No. 692 for Oliastro, who at the age of 79 said WPIAL title No. 6 was even sweeter than the titles he won in 1996, 2006, 2011, 2016 and 2017.
“It’s a young group, so it feels better,” said Oliastro, who has also won four PIAA titles.
Riverside capped a dominant WPIAL playoff run that saw the Panthers outscore their four opponents, 36-4. The win against No. 6 Neshannock (18-5) was their third this spring after beating the Lancers by scores of 12-4 and 4-3 in section play.
For five innings, this was a pitcher’s duel between Riverside sophomore Christian Lucarelli and Neshannock senior Andrew Frye. Lucarelli, a Duke recruit, didn’t have his best stuff as he walked six and gave up four hits in 4⅔ innings. But he gave up only one run, as did Frye, who surrendered five hits and two walks in five innings.
“He just gutted it out,” Oliastro said of Lucarelli, who struck out eight.
With the score tied, 1-1, Riverside made its move in the bottom of the sixth against the Neshannock bullpen. Bo Fornataro, who finished 3 for 4, led off with a single and Hunter Garvin followed with a single of his own. After a balk by Cameron Foy moved the runners up to second and third, Mitch Garvin stepped to the plate with no outs and the go-ahead run just 90 feet away.
“Right side. That’s all I was thinking about. Just try to piece it up and hit it through the right side, get a single,” Mitch Garvin said. Mitch is a senior while Hunter is a sophomore.
Garvin executed that plan to perfection as his single to right field scored Fornataro and pinch-runner Shawn Krisophel to put Riverside in front, 3-1. Later in the inning, Drake Fox scored on a throwing error, Sean Hayes hit a sacrifice fly and Evan Burry added a run-scoring single to increase the Riverside lead to 5-1.
“We’ve been working hard all year hitting and we finally broke it open there in the sixth inning,” Mitch Garvin said.
Chances are the Panthers have been working hard all year on pitching, too, and it was the other Garvin brother, Hunter, who showcased that Wednesday by closing the door on Neshannock. Garvin relieved Lucarelli with two outs in the fifth and didn’t give up a hit while walking three in his 2⅓ innings of work.
“Hunter is the Iceman,” quipped Oliastro.
Making the moment all the more special for the Garvin brothers was that their father, Mike, was a starter on Oliastro’s first championship team.
“It means a lot,” Mitch Garvin said. “My dad in 1996 got a title for him, so to play for him after my dad played for him felt amazing.”
So, an amazing season continues to be amazing for Riverside, with the latest win resulting in their legendary coach being the recipient of a Gatorade shower as he spoke to reporters afterward.
“They’ve got me before, but it’s been a while,” a chilly Oliastro said. “They owed me for all the burpees I’ve been making them do.”