They say it’s tough to beat a good team three times in a row, but somebody must have forgotten to tell that to North Catholic.

Despite falling into a four-run hole early in Wednesday’s WPIAL Class 4A championship game at Wild Things Park against section-rival Indiana — a team they had defeated in both regular-season matchups — the Trojans never wavered. Displaying the resilience and heart of a champion, North Catholic (17-4) produced a furious rally with six unanswered runs while starting pitcher Tommy Schafale buckled down after a rocky start to earn the complete-game victory. The win gives the Trojans their fifth WPIAL title in program history.

“There’s not too many times you see a team come back against the pitching staff Indiana threw out there,” North Catholic coach Andy Przybylek said. “But I do know, every time in my [two years] as a coach at North Catholic, when I’ve given the ball to Tommy, he’s given it back to me with a ‘W.’ That’s dependability and reliability.

“I never wanted to ever take Tommy out of the game. He deserved that victory and being on the mound for the last out. He’s just a tremendous, tremendous baseball player.”

It was an extremely unorthodox outing for Schafale, who fired a complete game while striking out only one batter and walking none. That means 31 of the 32 batters he faced put the ball in play, but Schafale did a great job of pitching to contact and trusting his defense. The senior southpaw gave up five runs in the first three innings before settling into a groove and posting four consecutive scoreless innings to polish off the championship win for the Trojans.

“It feels awesome. Like something I couldn’t imagine,” Schafale said. “Whenever [Przybylek] gives me the ball, I know he has full faith in me. … We always fight, and we showed it today.

“We’re always in the game. We never stop fighting until the final out.”

For the Little Indians (13-10), Texas Tech recruit Greg Minnick got the start and allowed three runs on four hits and five walks while striking out eight in four innings of work. Indiana had five players record multi-hit games, while North Catholic only had one — 6-6 junior Joe Safar. The towering slugger went 2 for 2 with a double, a triple, a walk, and RBI and two runs scored to power the Trojans to victory.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Safar said. “Being a WPIAL champion is something I’ve wanted to do since my freshman year. It’s just awesome to be out here and finally do it.”

Indiana struck first with a two-out RBI single in the top of the first inning by Hunter Martin, bringing home Trevor Smith on a pop fly that barely dropped in right in front of the diving right fielder. The Little Indians then added another two-out RBI single in the top of the second by Tim Birch, who then stole second base and advanced to third on an errant throw, but Schafale induced a flyout to strand Birch on third and keep it a two-run deficit.

North Catholic got on the board in the bottom of the second after a leadoff triple to the right-center gap by Safar, who came home to score on an RBI groundout by Anthony Sewecke.

“We have some really big boys in the middle of that order,” Przybylek said. “I’m just so proud of the boys. This is what it’s all about.”

North Catholic’s Tommy Koroly reacts after hitting a triple against Indiana in the WPIAL Class 4A championship on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, at Wild Things Park. North Catholic won, 7-5. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

In the top of the third, Indiana’s big boppers erupted for a pair of home runs, and the game appeared to be spiraling out of hand for North Catholic. Ben Ryan blasted a sky-scraping solo shot way over the left-field wall for his seventh homer of the season before Charlie Manzi swatted a two-run homer to stretch the Little Indians’ advantage to 5-1. Minnick then struck out Trojans slugger Blake Primrose to strand runners on second and third in the bottom of the third to preserve the four-run lead.

North Catholic threatened again in the bottom of the fourth, and this time, the Trojans capitalized with a pair of runs on a wild pitch followed by an RBI single by Landon Eifler. Tommy Koroly then led off the bottom of the fifth with a triple, and Ryan Shantz followed with an RBI single to cut the deficit to one. Two batters later, Owen Beatrice singled home Shantz to tie the score, 5-5.

In the ensuing at-bat, Safar belted a go-ahead RBI double over the center fielder’s head for his second extra-base hit of the game to give North Catholic its first lead, 6-5.

“No matter how bad you get us down, we’ll hang in there,” Safar said. “We’ll always fight back. Never count us out.”

After Kadin Homer led off the top of the sixth with a single for Indiana, Schafale made a tremendous play to cover the bag at first for a crucial putout, then he stranded Homer at third by inducing an inning-ending flyout. Shantz then added a pivotal insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth, giving the Trojans a two-run cushion going into the seventh.

Ryan led off the bottom of the seventh with a sharp triple down the right-field line for his second extra-base hit, but Schafale shut the door for North Catholic with three consecutive putouts to clinch the Trojans’ fifth WPIAL title with a gutsy complete-game effort.

“This is a game I’ll never forget,” Przybylek said. “I’ve been around baseball for a long time. This was my favorite game of all time.”

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at