Sophomore’s clutch hit carries Bethel Park past Shaler into Class 5A baseball semifinals
Some might consider Bethel Park sophomore John Chalus the little brother of a Division I baseball recruit, but he certainly wasn’t overshadowed Friday.
Chalus drove in the winning run with a walk-off single in the seventh as second-seeded Bethel Park capitalized on a fielding error to beat No. 7 Shaler, 3-2, in a WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinal at La Roche. Both starting pitchers threw complete games and kept hits scarce.
With no outs and a runner on third, Chalus lined a fastball up the middle for Bethel Park’s fifth hit, earning the Black Hawks a semifinal matchup with No. 3 West Allegheny at 4:30 p.m. Monday at West Mifflin.
“I knew it was going to be a close game,” Chalus said, “but I didn’t know it was going to come down to that.”
The catcher bats ninth in the order, four spots behind Kent State-bound brother Eric.
“Sometimes we say Eric is Johnny’s older brother,” Bethel Park coach Patrick Zehnder said with a laugh. “Instead of saying Johnny is Eric’s younger brother.”
Shaler (14-6) was the reigning WPIAL Class 5A champion after winning the title in 2019. Last season was canceled entirely because of the pandemic.
Bethel Park (17-3) is one win away from its first WPIAL finals appearance since 2007.
Sophomore starter Evan Holewinski scattered four hits over seven innings, walked two and struck out seven to earn the win. The right-hander gave up two runs in the second inning — one on a wild pitch — before shutting out Shaler the rest of the way.
“That was the best game we’ve been a part of,” Holewinski said. “That was our best of the year all around.”
Shaler scored two runs in the second inning and Bethel Park tied with two in the fourth.
Shaler starter Miguel Hugas allowed five hits and three walks, hit one batter and struck out seven. The sophomore escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning with a strikeout.
In the fourth, Bethel Park loaded the bases again with a hit batter, a single by Eric Chalus and a bunt single by Bo Conrad that Shaler coaches contested. Umpires ruled that runner Cody Geddes beat Hugas’ throw to third.
Bethel Park’s Ray Altmeyer drew a bases-loaded walk on four pitches to score Geddes. Shaler turned a double play on the next batter, but Eric Chalus scored from third.
“With two great pitchers on the mound, we knew that it was going to be low-scoring,” Zehnder said. “Whoever took advantage of their opportunities and made the fewest mistakes was going to win.”
Shaler had chances. The Titans stranded two runners in the fifth inning and had another caught stealing at third on a miscue in the sixth. They also struggled to lay down bunts, hampering their small-ball strategy.
“The frustrating part is for hours each week we practice that live,” Shaler coach Brian Junker said. “That’s how we play because we don’t have the home run hitting team.”
Shaler scored twice in the second with two singles, a hit batter and a wild pitch. Tre Junker’s single scored Hugas, and later Alex Engelmore scored on the wild pitch. But the inning ended with Junker stranded at third.
“We just missed too many opportunities if you look back at it,” Junker said.
Tied 2-2 in the seventh, Bethel Park pinch hitter Zack Sackett bounced a leadoff grounder down the third base line that got past Shaler’s Tre Junker for a two-base error. Dylan Schmude, pinch running for Sackett, took third on a passed ball.
That brought Chalus to the plate.
“Coming from 0-2, you’ve really just got to keep calm,” Chalus said. “You can’t get frustrated. I just put hands to the ball and good things happened.”
Tags: Bethel Park, Shaler