Lebo, PT facing big week on the diamond
With a 6-0 win over Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon edged ahead of Bethel Park and Peters Township in the Section 5-AAA baseball standings.
As they prepared for pivotal play this week in the division, the Blue Devils boasted a 4-1 slate. The Hawks and Indians followed, tied for second place, each with 3-2 marks.
Lebo visits Peterswood Park for a 7 p.m. showdown with the Indians April 24. The Blue Devil host BP at 4:15 p.m. April 26 at Wildcat Field.
Defense has paved the way to success for the Blue Devils. In each of their four section wins, they have not committed an error. In the lone defeat, to 1-4 Brashear, Lebo surrendered three unearned runs. The Blue Devils made four errors in the first frame.
“We’ve played well defensively,” said manager Pat McCloskey. “I couldn’t be prouder of the way the defense has played, especially since Brad Bekampis is the only returning starter.”
Bekampis anchors the outfield. The center fielder is joined by Brenadan Depp in right and Terry Halligan in left. Around the horn, it’s Robert Klinchock at first, Vince D’orazio at second, Brian Isler at third and Darren Zaslau at short. Eddie Jenkins is the designated hitter.
Behind the plate is Matt McGraw. An all-conference football player, McGraw has not played baseball since his freshman year. Because Cavan Wallace incurred an injury in the first game of the year, McGraw has started ever since.
“Matt came out for the team this year and we couldn’t be happier that he did,” McGraw said. “It’s really a unique circumstance, in this day of sports specialization, he doesn’t even own catcher’s gear. But, he’s had an unreal season behind the plate in terms of receiving, blocking and throwing runners out. He’s just a gamer, who knows how to compete. It’s been an absolute pleasure to coach him.”
On the mound, Zach Bahm has been a pleasure. In blanking USC, he tossed his third consecutive complete game and second straight conference shutout. He scattered four hits, walked one and struck out four.
Since walking six in two innings during an opening game loss to Pine-Richland, 16-0, Bahm has thrown 25 innings, winning four games, giving up two runs and allowing only two free passes.
“Zack throws a lot of strikes,” McCoskey said. “He trusts that his defense will make plays behind him.”
Thanks to a solid off-season and pitching coaches Ed McCloskey and Kevin Ferris, the entire Lebo pitching staff has been throwing plenty of strikes says McCloskey.
Against USC, Lebo tagged plenty of timely hits. Consecutive singles by McGraw, Halligon and Depp drove in runs in a three-run second. Halligan drove in another tally on a sacrifice fly in the third. D’orazio drilled a two-run double in the fourth frame.
Klinchock and D’orazio lead Lebo in batting with .474 and .364 averages as well as RBI. D’orazio also is tops with four doubles. Zaslau and Jenkins are also batting over .300.
Meanwhile, Phil Zeffiro paces Peters with a .519 average while Chris Watschak and Matt Loether follow with .419 marks. Loether, Watschak and Adam Becker lead with 13, 13 and 14 RBI. Phil Pisarcik, who is also batting over .400, leads with 12 runs scored.
To date, manager Joe Maize has been pleased with his club, particularly its pitchers. Max Augenstein is 3-0 with a 2.72 ERA. Jake Kirschler is 2-1. Watschak, Steve Yuram and Devin Ulam each have one win.
“The pitching staff is doing a nice job,” Maize said. “Except for one inning against Canon-McMillan, they have done a nice job.”
PT held the Big Macs scoreless in six stanzas. However, CM scored seven times in the fifth to score a 7-6 victory. The Indians walked three batters, who eventually scored, all with two outs.
Hence, instead of being 3-2 at the halfway mark in the season, PT could have been 4-1 just as Lebo is, Maize points out. Maize also acknowledged how challenging the competition in the section is.
“During the second round we could go 5-0 or we could go 0 and 5,” Maize said. “That is how close this section is. Each team has the capability of winning or losing any given section contest. I think all of the section coaches would agree.”
McCloskey certainly does. “Our margin for victory has been razor thin,” he said. “In every game, we were one play away from winning or losing and our kids have made those critical plays.
“Every section game is equally as important,” McCloskey said. “Each game has such significance that it really doesn’t matter whom we are playing, we are just trying to find a way to win that game. Then we’ll worry about the next day.”
“With so many good teams in our section, we literally take a game-by-game approach. There is no rotation. There are no match-ups. We are trying to compete in each section game.”
“The second we think about anything other than the game that is right in front of us,” McCloskey warned, “we are going to take one on the chin. The section is just that good.
“Our kids understand that everyone else out there is working hard to win, and we need to continue to improve. The most important things is that our kids believe in themselves right now. We need to continue to have the preparation that leads to that confidence, which can eventually lead to success.”