Monessen trying to get over playoff hump
In his first 10 seasons as Monessen baseball coach, Bill Matush has not been able to take his team to the WPIAL playoffs.
In fact, it's been over 20 years since Monessen last played a baseball playoff game.
Oh, the Greyhounds have gotten closer in recent years, missing the postseason two times by one game, including last season.
“We've been close. We just haven't been able to break through,” Matush said. “This year, I'm hoping we can. I think we can.”
The Greyhounds certainly don't have the recipe for success in that they only return three full-time starters from last year's 8-10 squad. And there are only two seniors on this year's team - Pete Tarka and Justin Woodard - and Matush was quick to note that neither played on last year's team.
Still, Matush is optimistic, if not confident.
“I like our team, I really do,” he said. “We may only have a few returning starters, but some of the guys played a lot last year even though they didn't start.”
Monessen's infield has the majority of the returning experience with junior Jonathan Kravets at first (he started behind the plate last season) and sophomore Josh Kucmeroski returning at shortstop. At third base will be either junior Justice Rawlins, who started a year ago after he returned from knee surgery, or Tarka, who started at Geibel last season.
The catcher is junior Tyler Shash, who started part time behind the plate and in other positions.
The Greyhounds have zero experience in the outfield where newcomers Noah Rullo (sophomore) will be in left, Luke Doptis (junior) will be in center and Dom Zboyovsky (junior) will be in right.
“Our infield is pretty solid with some good players,” Matush said. “The outfield is all new and we're hoping those players come along as the season goes on.” Rawlins and Tarka will be the one-two starters on the mound for Monessen.
If Rawlins does anything the rest of the season like he did in his first start against Jefferson-Morgan Friday, he could open some eyes.
The righthander fired a two-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts as Monessen won, 2-0.
Also vying to pitch are Woodard, the only lefty, Kucmeroski and fellow soph Marcel Taylor.
Matush calls Taylor (6-2, 240) a project, saying, “He throws really hard. I've been working with him for about a month to get his control in place.”
Looking at the revamped Section 2 A, Matush says chances of anyone beating Bishop Canevin or Serra are slim. That leaves Frazier, Clairton, Geibel and the Greyhounds to fight for the third playoff spot.
“I really think we can get there if we get a couple breaks and we do the things we are supposed to,” Matush said. “We are solid in a lot of positions. Still, we have to play as a team. And, of course, pitching is always crucial.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.