Mildren, Sleith are Greensburg Trib's ball players of the year
For four seasons, Laurel Highlands senior Ethan Mildren has been a pitcher whom other teams don't want to face. The hard-throwing right-hander set a school record with 23 career wins, including six this season. The Pitt recruit also had 89 strikeouts in 54 innings, leading the Mustangs to another Section 2-AAA title and a spot in the WPIAL playoffs. Mildren, the Tribune-Review's Baseball Player of the Year, also batted .482 with four home runs and 26 RBI.
Q: What were your season highlights?
A: The best was winning the section four years in a row. The most memorable games were against Greensburg Salem. The first time, they hit me around a little bit, we had some errors and we ended up losing. The second time around, all my stuff was working, I kept them off balance and we ended up winning.
Q: Did you have a favorite moment?
A: In our Uniontown game, I had runners on second and third with no outs, and I got out of the jam by striking the next two guys out, I believe. They are our rivals, and that helped me keep the shutout.
Q: When did you start playing baseball?
A: I think I got my first glove when I was 3, I believe, and my earliest baseball memory was making the all-star team at T-ball. That was pretty exciting.
Q: Why did you pick Pitt?
A: I just liked all of the coaches and everything. I was already familiar with the campus. It just felt right for me. They're building a new stadium, and the team is on the rise right now. I felt like that was the best place for me.
Q: Do you have any hidden skills?
A: I used to play the drums back in middle school. I sold them, but I think I could still play a little bit.
Q: With whom would you trade places for a day?
A: Stephen Strasburg. I'd like to see what it's like to throw 102 (mph) or however hard he throws. I've topped at 90 or 91. I'm consistently in the upper 80s.
Q: What will you be doing in five years?
A: I hope to be playing professional baseball, if everything works out right. That's what I'm going for right now.
Q: What did you learn about you and your team?
A: I learned that, no matter how down our team was, we'd fight to come back.
— Chris Harlan
Before Nicole Sleith started pitching for Yough in 2008, the softball program had made just one WPIAL playoff appearance in the previous four seasons. Sleith made Yough a contender. The team won its third consecutive section championship, claimed the first playoff game in school history, qualified for the state playoffs for the first time and ousted District 10 champion Warren in the first round. This season, the Robert Morris recruit and Tribune-Review Softball Player of the Year led the WPIAL with 362 strikeouts — including 94 in five playoff games — and twice struck out 21 in a game.
Q: What made you choose Robert Morris over some of the other schools — including Georgia — that offered you scholarships?
A: (Coach Craig Coleman) was everything I wanted. He lets you miss practices if you need to study and focuses more on than (just) softball. They're setting up a really great program.
Q: Looking back on the season, you averaged almost two strikeouts an inning. Could you have imagined having a year like this?
A: I didn't expect it. I went out there trying to win games for the team — not aiming to strike everyone out — but I guess it kind of happened that way.
Q: What was your high point of the season?
A: Making it to the state playoffs. Yough softball has never even come close — never even won a playoff game, actually. So I guess it was winning a couple of playoff games and making states.
Q: What was it like going for the last out of the no-hitter against Warren?
A: I wanted to strike her out. At that point, I wanted to, and I did. It was one of their better batters. I knew what to throw her, and she chased it.
Q: Had you ever had such a dominant stretch as you did in the playoffs?
A: No, I don't think so. In the playoffs, you have to get your game face on and go in there hoping to win — expecting to win.
Q: What do you like to do when you're not playing softball?
A: I just like to hang out with my friends, just be a kid.
Q: If I were to turn on your iPod now, what would be on it?
A: Probably Taylor Swift. I think that's what I was listening to last.
Q: Next season, the pitcher's rubber moves back 3 feet. Will that affect you?
A: I don't think so. The last couple of tournaments that I've been playing with my travel team, they've been from 43 feet. My movement's what I've been focusing on, and it's been just as well as it's been at 40 feet.
— Keith Barnes