HOLLIDAYSBURG- Say what you will about how Donegal got into the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals but the Indians left little room for argument after handling West Allegheny, 6-1 Thursday afternoon.
Donegal captured the win in front of a large and vocal group of fans that followed the team on the three-hour hike to Hollidaysburg High School.
"That's really helpful. They keep in the game most of the time," Donegal starting pitcher Camren Ney said. "When a good play happens and the whole crowd yells, it feels pretty good and we're able to keep the momentum.
After Donegal essentially received a first round bye due to Franklin Towne Charter School forfeiting, the Indians got entire week of rest coming off their District 3 title win last Thursday.
"We were certainly happy to advance but we were disappointed that we didn't get an opportunity to play that first game," Indians skipper Chris Miller said.
While the rest is good for healing and rejuvenating bodies, it can sometimes make a team lackadaisical. But Miller had confidence that he team would be focused coming into Thursday's contest.
"It's a credit to our seniors. Our kids are very focused and try to play within themselves," Miller said.
"We came into this game and looked back on what got us here and tried to keep the same mind frame.
After two scoreless innings to start the game, Donegal got their first jolt of momentum when right fielder Kyle Hess caught a would-be sacrifice fly and then gunned down West Allegheny's Mike Cummings at the plate.
"That was real big there," Ney said. "That let us know that we had defense behind us and we just needed to get some runs."
Donegal would build off that play in the bottom of the third when they manufactured their first run via a Sam Lazowski RBI single that scored courtesy runner Tyler Snyder who was running for Ney after he led off the inning with a single.
Working with a lead, Ney and the Donegal defense held West Allegheny in check for the majority of the game.
Ney went the full seven innings; allowing six hits while striking out three, walking one and hitting two batters.
"Camren Ney did a stellar job today. He was throwing strikes and defensively, we made the plays around him," Miller said.
The Donegal hurler would help his own cause again in the fifth when he brought in Adam Kolenda. The Indians added three more runs in the fifth the effectively ended West Allegheny starter Tyler Eritz's day.
"Once we got the lead, I knew I could sit back and start working some pitches and just focus on getting outs after that," Ney said.
Eritz went four and one-third innings; allowing four hits, two walks and one hit batter while striking out two.
"All season long, we've seen quality pitching. In Section Three, we saw one after another and we've been in a lot of tight games so the kids don't really press," Miller said.
Donegal added one more run in the sixth via a Ryan Myers RBI before West Allegheny avoided a shutout in the top of the seventh inning with a Matt Starkman RBI single.
Donegal will now look ahead the PIAA Class AAA semifinals where they'll meet another District 7 team in WPIAL champion Knoch on Monday.
"We got a big game ahead of us. We're going to go home, get rested, work hard and we're going to come out on Monday and just do the best we can," Miller said. "We're not going to do anything that we haven't done all season long."
The Indians will enter Monday's game as the last remaining L-L team in any state tournament.
"It's been so much fun. I've enjoyed every moment of it," Ney said. "We just have to keep coming out and playing and we'll do well. I have confidence."