WEXFORD — The bitter taste of a WPIAL championship loss to Latrobe last season has been in the mouths of the Mars baseball team for nearly a year.
Next week, the Planets get a chance to cleanse their palate.
Thank a couple of clutch hits for that. Thank power-pitcher Will Bednar for that.
The Planets got everything they needed offensively in the third inning, plating three runs, and Bednar was terrific again as Mars downed rival Hampton, 4-0, Thursday afternoon in the WPIAL 5A semifinals.
“We're coming back with a chip on our shoulder,” Bednar said.
Mars (15-5) had a big chance to jump up on Hampton in the first inning with runners on first and third and no outs, but Hampton pitcher Phil Conti, who was making only his second start of the season, got out of the jam with no runs crossing the plate on a flyout, a caught stealing, and another flyout.
It looked like Conti and the Talbots would get out of another pickle in the fourth inning as Mars put runners on second and third with one out.
Conti got a tapper to the mound for the second out before Anthony Michalski hit a flare into shallow right field that dropped for a two-run double.
Mitchell Schultz added a RBI double and Mars had a 3-0 lead after four.
“We just squeezed out a couple of runs when we really needed them,” said Mars coach Andy Bednar.
Will Bednar didn't need much.
With a fastball that again topped out over 90 mph, his change-up and his new weapon, an effective cutter, Bednar gave up just five hits, struck out 12 and didn't walk a batter.
Not bad for a pitcher who was battling a stomach bug for the better part of two days.
“I was a little concerned,” Andy Bednar said. “He stepped up and threw well today.
“No, he was going to go,” the coach added when asked if starting Will Bednar, who is his son, was a game-time decision. “I just didn't know what we were going to get.”