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Shaler baseball squad young, but growing

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal
Shaler's Jim Hughes has a big game against Plum as the Titans earned the first win of the season.
Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal
Shaler head baseball coach Brian Junker plans to have his young team ready for section play.

The Shaler varsity baseball team has a new look this season as much of last year's squad has graduated, leaving a slew of raw but talented players to pick up the team.

Searching for its first win of the season, Shaler headed to Plum to face an undefeated team. The game was played in slightly above freezing conditions.

The only things that were hot that afternoon were the bats, and although Plum got its share of hits, Shaler got a few more and edged the Mustangs, 10-8.

“We are a very young team, and this was our first win of the season,” Shaler coach Brian Junker said. “We are don't care about the wins now; we are trying to prepare for section play.”

Junker was pleased to get the first win of the young season. After trailing Plum, 2-0, then 4-2, Shaler scored six runs in the top of the fifth for a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

Down by two runs, third baseman Jimmy Hughes knocked a bases-clearing double to tie the score at 2. Hughes nabbed an unassisted double play in the bottom of that frame to keep the game close.

Justin Mazza hit an RBI double in the top of the fourth before Shaler kicked the game open in the top of the fifth.

Hughes took a walk followed by an RBI double from Matt Carter, then another RBI double by Anthony Zelina.

Sammy Ireland knocked in a run with his single, and Andrew Muller hit a three-run double to keep the pressure on Plum. Hughes knocked in another run before the inning ended, and Shaler led, 10-4, with two innings to play.

Plum made one last surge, scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth, but Junker went to Ireland, a freshman, to close the game. He didn't disappoint.

Ireland struck out three batters, and although one reached base due to an error, he showed his mettle in a tough situation.

“My team was yelling at me, and that just motivated me,” Ireland said. “I hope this win gives us the momentum we need heading into section play.

“We have been hitting pretty good. We just have some trouble reading fly balls, and we have to clean up the little errors.”

Junker said the win was not pretty, but he'll take it as a confidence booster for a team that played hard.

Starting pitcher Jake Potock, a sophomore, pitched a solid game, striking out five batters and limiting Plum's scoring chances.

Junker was pleased with Ireland's play at second and how he closed the game.

“That kid is going to be a player,” Junker said.

Junker said the play of Muller, a returning starter and strong center fielder, and Hughes at third base will be important as the team develops this season.

Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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