Peters Township keeping pace in Section 5 baseball
While Joe Maize is pleasantly surprised by Peters Township’s success so far this baseball campaign, the manager does not waver much from his pre-season predictions as the Indians embark on second-half action in Section 5-AAAA.
Four years ago, the Indians were WPIAL champions while their rivals, Canon-McMillan, captured the PIAA title. During that 2007 season, Bethel Park also competed in the district finals. More recently, in 2010, Upper St. Clair joined PT in the Final Four. In 2011, the Indians reached the WPIAL finals. In 2012, Lebo made it that far and was one step away from playing in the state finals.
Heading into action this week, all five teams jockeyed for playoff position in the section. At the halfway mark in the league, Peters (4-1, 6-3) moved into first place ahead of Canon-McMillan (2-1, 7-2) after the Indians edged the Big Macs, 8-7, in nine innings on Monday (April 14). Meanwhile, Mt. Lebanon (3-2, 6-7) slipped into third place after its 9-3 win against USC. Yet the Panthers (2-2, 5-4) and Bethel Park (2-3, 6-4) are also still in contention for the final playoff spot in the division.
“All the teams in our section are competitive,” said Maize. “Any team in our section has the ability to win the section and any of the teams also have the ability to qualify for the playoffs. Our section is so strong that I believe any of the six teams would be favored to win the title in any other section.”
Take recent section action for example. Last week, Bethel Park came from behind to beat Peters Township, 4-3, in extra innings. Two days later, the Indians topped USC, 3-1. Lebo dropped a 15-14 decision to Canon-McMillan but came back the next day to topple the Hawks, 6-5. And, PT edged the Big Macs.
Carmen Jansante tagged a three-run walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Hawks over the Indians. The roundtripper spoiled a solid pitching performance by Max Augenstein. The senior struck out six, walked none and scattered nine hits.
Tim Swoope had homered to give PT a 1-0 advantage in the top of the sixth. Though the Hawks tied the game, the Indians forged another lead in the top of the ninth. Mitch Bianco walked, moved to third on Brett McIntosh’s base hit and scored on Cameron Asbell’s single. With a suicide squeeze bunt, Ryan Tassone scored pinch runner Nick Thomas, giving the Indians a 3-1 edge.
Tassone, who had a double against BP, provided the heroics against USC. In the bottom of the sixth stanza, he smashed a three-run homer.
Josh Glicksman earned the win on the mound. He struck out four in two innings in relief of Tyler Schmidt. USC tagged four hits, all doubles by Gannon Rooney (2), Ben Haus and Adam Baltutat.
Glicksman, a southpaw, was one of two pitchers on the PT staff that experienced success on the junior varsity level. Along with junior Matt Gummersbach, Glicksman has helped the Indians be successful. PT has also relied on veterans Ryan Black, Augenstein, Steve Yuran, Tyler Schmidt and Phil Mary. Augenstein earned the win against the Big Macs, although they tagged home runs by Buzz Boggio and Teagan Piechnick in the contest.
“Pitching depth may be our strength,” said Maize. “Our five varsity pitchers gained valuable experience last year. We continue to look for leadership from them.
Tim Swoope provided the offensive leadership against the Big Macs. The junior was 2-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI. He led off the ninth with a double, swiped second, advanced to third on a passed ball. After Brett McIntosh was hit by a pitch, Kyle Lewis tagged a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Swoope.
While Maize stressed the importance of pitching, he also emphasized defense as a factor in continued winning for the Indians. “In order to be successful in our section, you have to depend on the pitching staff and team defense,” he said.
So far, the Indians seem to have filled the gaps defensively. At the start of the campaign, they needed to fill vacancies behind the plate, at first, shortstop and right field.
While Asbell and Swoope have been interchangeable at first along with junior Rob Quinn, Phil Pisarcik, Tassone and Tyler Schmidt have had two years of experience at the other infield positions. Lewis, who can play second or third base as well, demonstrated his versatility as he filled in at shortstop against the Big Macs after Tassone was ejected from the game after a home-plate collision.
Mitch Bianco moved into right field this season and played well against the Hawks while Jack Bittel has filled in admirable at catcher. McIntosh is also a catcher. Along with Bianco, Frank Jezioro, Phil Zeffiro, Ethan Anderson, Nick Thomas and Kason Marisa give the Indians exceptional speed in the outfield.
While the Indians seemed to have answered the questions regarding their ability to score runs, their continued success this spring, says Maize, will be determined by the players’ realization that team goals are more important than individual objections.
“This was a big reason why we were successful when we qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for 12 years in a row,” pointed out Maize. “Team goals must come first. To be successful, you have to buy into that philosophy.”