It’s become an annual criticism concerning the WPIAL baseball playoffs. Teams which receive a first-round bye can throw their top pitcher throughout the postseason tournament, assuming weather cooperates and games remain on schedule.
Two aces – California’s T.D. Conway and Bentworth’s Tyler Delval – displayed their considerable talents and swing-stopping curveballs during the Trojans’ 2-1 win in the Class A semifinals late Monday night at Washington & Jefferson College’s Ross Memorial Park.
It’s doubtful anyone in the overflow crowd complained after Conway and Delval each turned in masterful nine-inning performances as California defeated Bentworth’s for the third consecutive year in the playoffs.
“A lot of people out there say this No. 1 pitcher versus No. 1 pitcher isn’t a good thing,” California head coach Don Hartman said following the game. “If you’re a fan who loves baseball, you couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Conway and Delval, who both took advantage of a wide strike zone by throwing nearly as many off-speed pitches as fastballs, were nothing short of brilliant.
Delval allowed one baserunner on a Sean Cotton single with one out in the fifth through seven innings. He allowed just three hits, struck out 13 and walked one.
I feel very badly for him because he obviously did an outstanding job and he’s taking it hard,” Bentworth coach Dion Jansante said. “Without him, we wouldn’t have been in this game. I hope he realizes that.”
For at least seven innings, Delval might have outdueled Conway, if that’s actually possible. Then again, the Trojans’ ace deserves a little slack. Just hours before California arrived, Conway was leaving Mon Valley Hospital following an overnight stay for a 24-hour flu bug.
“I came straight from the hospital to the game,” said Conway, who struck out 14 and allowed five hits. “I made it habit to want to pitch in this game. I couldn’t let the team down.”
He responded with the finest performance of his season, which is saying something considering Conway upped his record to 13-0.
Conway now gets a week to recuperate before California (19-0) plays top-seeded Neshannock (20-2) in the WPIAL Class A championship, May 30 at Consol Energy Park. The game is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.
But even a chance to help win California’s first WPIAL title since 2006 and Hartman’s third as a head coach, didn’t dampen appreciation for Bentworth (17-2).
“(Delval) pitched an outstanding team. Bentworth is a very, very good team. Look at how long that game was 0-0. That doesn’t happen very often,” Conway said. “I feel like we were the two best teams played each other.”
The Bearcats can qualify for their first trip to the PIAA playoffs by beating OLSH (16-6) in the third-place consolation game, which will be played May 30 at 4 p.m. at Ross Memorial Park.
And, naturally, Delval will pitch for Bentworth.
“Playing in the state playoffs is one of our goals we set before the season,” Jansante said. “I’ve never had a chance to play a June game and I asked the team if they wouldn’t mind helping me out. This is a talented group, and they don’t want to see it end.”