Bishop Carroll holds off Portage, reaches District 6-1A baseball final

REVLOC – Bishop Carroll’s Preston Gillin knew his team was capable of more following two scoreless innings Friday.

The sixth-seeded Huskies went without a hit into the third against Portage in the District 6 Class A semifinals, but a momentous run from Gillin and company quickly shifted the momentum.

Gillin drove in two runs in the third and finished the afternoon with three RBIs to lead Bishop Carroll to a 4-2 victory and a trip to the district finals.

“We’re a team that scores in spurts,” said Gillin, who went 2-for-3 at the plate. “We didn’t start well and were pretty cold, but we finally got a ball into play and found some momentum from there.”

Bishop Carroll (9-12) advances to the title game for the first time since winning the district crown in 2011.

It’s been quite the turnaround over the last few years for coach Bill Schenk’s Huskies.

The team couldn’t finish a game in 2021 and had only four wins the following year, but a dedicated group of seniors brought the program back to winning baseball.

“We have a really experienced senior group,” Schenk said. “They were here for some hard times, but they put in the work. A lot of these seniors started as freshmen, and they’ve played together all these years. They’re so used to playing with each other, and it shows.”

Portage’s Justin Morgan had the lone hit through the first two innings as right-handed pitchers Jake McCoy and Mark Mento were locked into a duel.

McCoy struck out two of three batters in the first inning, but Mento responded for the Huskies by whiffing two in the third.

Leaning on its pitcher, Bishop Carroll finally got the bats moving in the third.

Max Oravec singled to open the frame, and with one out, Luke Repko lined a shot to center field and advanced to second on the throw.

With runners in scoring position, Gillin connected on a 2-1 count and drove in both runners with a fly ball to center to put up the game’s first points.

“I was just looking to make contact today,” Gillin said. “I wanted to put it somewhere in play.

“The last thing you want to do in that situation is strikeout.”

Portage couldn’t escape the inning and gave up another run after C.J. Myers’ chop to third base.

The Mustangs (10-13) appeared to have Casses caught running to third, but instead of tagging him out, a high throw was made to first as Casses trotted home.

Portage found life in the fifth with Connor Letzo’s RBI single, but despite having a pair of runners aboard, Mento responded and earned the final out to mitigate the damage.

“My defense really had my back today,” said Mento, who allowed only three hits and fanned four. “Our infield played a big role. A lot of balls were put into play, but they were able to handle it.”

The Mustangs appeared to grab a hold of the momentum until Gillin collected his third RBI immediately after Luke Repko’s double in the bottom of the fifth.

“That fourth run we scored across was a big help,” Schenk said. “Preston (Gillin) had a great game today with his bat, and Jacob Gregg did well at third.

“We played great defense, and we’ve done that all year.”

Portage fought until the end and quickly loaded the bases in the top of the seventh.

Morgan scored following Letzo’s groundout, but the Huskies gained the final out to clinch their spot in the finals.

“These guys showed a lot of heart,” Portage coach Larry McCabe said. “They didn’t give up, and they fought until the very end. They didn’t want their season to end.”

Bishop Carroll will face Bishop McCort Catholic in the finals Tuesday at Vets Field in Altoona.

“We’ve all worked really hard to get to this point,” senior Zander Sekerak said.

“We went from only winning a couple games a few years ago to going to the finals. It’s really special.”