Last year, it took nine innings and only one run to give the Riverside Panthers the Class AA crown with a 1-0 win over Neshannock. In 2017, it was a new class and opponent but the end result was still the same as the Panthers cruised to a 7-1 victory over the Mount Pleasant Vikings at Wild Things Park to take the 3A baseball trophy back to North Sewickley Township.
It is the fifth WPIAL title for Dan Oliastro’s team, he has racked up four state titles as well in an amazing 49 year career. Christian Cicchinelli was the winning pitcher, allowing a run and three hits over the first six innings. The senior also got the job done at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a pair of RBI singles.
Riverside jumped out to a 2-0 first inning lead. The Panthers took advantage of an error to score the first run as Dylan Speicher scored on an errant pickoff throw by catcher Brady Duricko into left field. Cicchinelli singled home Austin Dambach and the Panthers were rolling. Riverside got a big play by their defense in the bottom of the first as Cicchinelli allowed two walks but Speicher started a 6-4-3 double play to keep the Vikings off the board.
It was a pitching duel as Mount Pleasant starter Jason Beranek settled in after the first inning, allowing just one walk over the next three. On the flip side Cicchinelli struggled early with the all turf mound, slipping a couple of times and not looking sharp. He was in a jam in the fourth with runners on first and second and no one out. But this time it was the pitcher’s time to shine with the glove, starting a 1-6-3 twin killing to shut down the Viking threat.
Riverside scored two in the fifth as Ty Thellman and Cicchinelli had run scoring singles. Mount Pleasant’s best opportunity came in the sixth as the Vikings loaded the bases on two walks and a single. With one out and Cicchinelli struggling to throw strikes, Brandon McCormick chased the first pitch and hit a weak liner to Ricky Wass at second for out number two. Jared Weaver then blistered a single to center, scoring George Tetteris. But Cody Reese also tried to score from second and was pegged by Dambach on a perfect throw to end the inning.
The Panthers added three in the seventh, helped by doubles by Speicher and Gunnar Boehm. The latter scored two runs and put the game out of reach. Thellman came on in relief and allowed a walk and a single, but with two outs caught Reese looking to end the game and start the celebration.
Dambach, Speicher and Cicchinelli each had two hits. Riverside finished with nine hits and took advantage of four Mount Pleasant errors. Cicchinelli was the winner, fanning three, he is now 7-0 on the year.
Riverside is now 18-1, with the only loss coming to Beaver in the second game of the year. The Panthers will put their 17 game winning streak on the line against District 10 runner up Fairview on Monday in the PIAA opening round.
Beranek was the hard luck loser, falling to 5-3. He tossed 6.1 innings and struck out two. Duricko had two of Mount Pleasant’s four hits. The Vikings are 13-6 with the loss, but graduaate only three seniors of the starting ten and were making their first championship game since 1989. Up next for the Vikings will be District 6 champ Huntington on Monday.