Serra baseball team eyes return to recent glory
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Brian Dzurenda is well aware of the specifics, and the veteran Serra Catholic baseball coach is pretty sure what his program was able to accomplish over a five-year span will never happen again.
Not the 104-16 record; not the streak of 42 section wins in a span of 43 games; not the 23 playoff wins; not the two WPIAL titles; not the three consecutive state championship-game appearances — none of it will ever be duplicated.
“Yeah, I don't know if that ever will happen again,” Dzurenda said.
Now, Dzurenda never said anything about expectations changing.
You'd figure despite Serra (13-6) falling apart down the stretch last year, dropping five of its final eight games to snap its streak of four consecutive 20-win seasons, coupled with losing one of the winningest pitchers in WPIAL history Alain Girman (31-2, 1.18 ERA) to graduation would temper those expectations.
That's just not how Dzurenda has won 198 games in 13 years at Serra.
“I want them to live up to those expectations that the teams before them set,” Dzurenda said. “I want them to know that we built this tradition of winning and a lot of these kids hold themselves to a higher standard because of the winning we've done.”
All that winning may have ultimately led to the Eagles' demise last year. After starting the season 10-1, Serra lost three in a row within a span of four days, two of which were when Girman was on the mound, including his first career loss.
The Eagles were unable to put those defeats behind them, losing to OLSH in nine innings in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals.
“It left a little bit of a sour taste in a lot of these kids' mouths,” Dzurenda said. “Maybe some people, myself included, became a little complacent last year.”
Serra can't afford to be complacent this year. There are no superstar pitchers or Division I players on the team. They have been replaced by a handful of solid returning starters along with a bunch of talented yet unproven sophomores.
“It's a brand-new start for us,” Dzurenda said. “Yesterday's home runs don't win tomorrow's games. We have some very talented young players and we are going to hold on our own. I am not going to predict anything but this group has a real good chance to do some special things.”
Serra returns four starters who were part of the 2011 state championship team — seniors Chad Hazaga, Wayne Hydak and Dylan Kugler and junior Brandon Coddington.
Hazaga and Hydak will be Serra's top pitchers. Both saw significant time on the mound a season ago.
“We are going to lean on those two guys heavily this season,” Dzurenda said. “These are seniors who are battled tested.”
Kugler will be a four-year starter and Coddington a three-year starter.
After that, the experience is limited.
Sophomore outfielders Dan Guzik and Parker Janosko saw plenty of time as freshmen and fellow sophomores Ryan Holland, Zach Quattrone and John Fazio are expected to contribute in the infield.
Throw in senior pitcher Dan Popovich, a McKeesport transfer, as well as upstart freshman outfielder Noah Kisner, and Dzurenda is optimistic.
“These kids do what I tell them to do and that energizes me to know we are going to do what it takes to get to that next level,” Dzurenda said. “We should be a playoff team this year and once you get to the playoffs, who knows?”
Serra will have better competition in Section 2-A with Bishop Canevin and Frazier dropping down a class to join much-improved Monessen, Geibel and Clairton.
“People are writing us off … that's fine,” Dzurenda said. “We will let them. We just might surprise some people.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.