Trib Cup: For 2-time defending PIAA champion Riverside, focus is on next pitch
The two-time defending PIAA champion Riverside baseball team is not talking about a three-peat.
Coach Don Oliastro is pleased with the 9-3 record and 6-2 mark in Section 5-AA, but the veteran doesn't want his group looking ahead.
“You have to go one pitch every inning at a time,” Oliastro said. “You can't look ahead and think you're gonna get somewhere if you didn't do the work behind it.
“We don't talk about (three-peats), but I'm sure the kids have thought about it. We just try to get better every time out.”
This week, the Panthers baseball team is featured for its role in helping Riverside to an eighth-place standing in Class AA for the Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award.
The Panthers have a knack for getting on base at the top of the order. Leadoff hitter Devin Kelosky (.316), Tyler Falk and his team-high .541 batting average and 15 RBI, and Dylan Jones (.422) have given Riverside the base runners it has needed to score early and often.
Ross Maietta, who's batting .420, surprised Oliastro with his ability early on and has secured a spot in the lineup as the designated hitter.
“We're expecting them to get on base and get home,” Oliastro said. “I think we just have to do a better job of driving them home. You can't leave a ton of guys on base.”
The Panthers' pitching staff is deep, and it has been solid.
Led by Blaise McCarty and Falk, both 3-1, Riverside, which has outscored teams, 74-30, hasn't given the opposition many opportunities to score runs.
Mitch Connolly and Jason Pettner have thrust their names into the equation after several solid outings and have shown Oliastro they can take the ball during crucial scenarios.
“They aren't moved by their record,” said Oliastro, who has a career mark of 547-376 in 44 years at Riverside.
“Being a veteran team, they've been around the block and understand one game isn't going to make your season. They just keep plugging along to try to get better and hopefully get into the playoffs and really peak.”
Oliastro said Section 5-AA may be the deepest, most difficult section in the state, and to win it will be a task.
After two losses to Beaver this year, including an 8-6 loss Monday, Oliastro knows it will take a near-perfect second half to lock up the section crown.
“We thought if we could be 6-2 at the end of the first half, we'd be in contention to win the section,” he said.
“We hit some bumps, but we're working because you can't take anything for granted.”
Oliastro has won multiple state titles, and he knows what it'll take to return to the title game. He said the recipe is simple, and it's something he's stressed to his players.
“I just want to be consistent and play good defense,” he said. “Past teams we've had that have won it consistently played good defense.
“Really in any sport, if you play great defense you can win a lot of ball games just by playing great defense.”
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.