Olasz impresses scouts, leads West Mifflin to win
It is one thing to walk to the mound and notice a college scout or two behind the backstop, but what West Mifflin's A.J. Olasz endured went way beyond that.
Sure, the 16-year-old junior lefty knew for a couple days that a handful of scouts would be in attendance at Monday's Section 4-AAA game against Elizabeth Forward, but he never imagined that it was going to be a scene right out of a clichéd baseball movie.
In unison and for five innings, scouts from Penn State, Michigan, Delaware, Ohio, Virginia Commonwealth, Kent State and Canisius pointed their radar guns at Olasz.
They had to like what they saw.
After a shaky first inning, Olasz settled down to retire 11 of 12 hitters while striking out seven in 5 2⁄3 innings as West Mifflin handed Elizabeth Forward its first loss of the season, 12-6.
“I was very nervous for him,” West Mifflin coach Jeff Kuzma said. “I thought about it all day. I saw him at lunch, and his buddies were trying to keep him relaxed. Let me tell you, that has to be tough for anybody let alone a junior who is 16 years old and you have that kind of pressure.”
Olasz's was consistently throwing 83-85 mph as he improved to 2-0. Olasz has 21 strikeouts in 14 innings and now has an ERA of 3.00.
“At first it is distracting (having the scouts there), but you have to zone it out,” Olasz said. “I have been there before and have struggled, but you just can't worry about it. I did OK, but I think I could've thrown a little more first-strike pitches.”
Olasz got plenty of help from his offense. Jim Carassanesi went 3-for-3 with a triple, double, RBI, three runs scored and three stolen bases while Olasz chipped in with a triple, single and three RBI. Zach Lapko added a double and two RBI.
Mark Adams took the loss for Elizabeth Forward (7-1, 1-1) as he allowed four hits and five earned runs over four innings. The Warriors got two hits from Ryan Thornton and Steve Welsh while Will Scott and Cary Lamkin knocked in a pair of runs, but it wasn't enough to upend one of its biggest rivals.
“I don't know if there is a great relationship between us, but that's OK; it's a rivalry game,” Elizabeth Forward coach Frank Champ said. “Bottom line is that we have to keep our composure, throw more strikes and make the routine play, and we didn't do that.”
The game couldn't have started better for the Warriors.
After a leadoff walk to Jake Terrick, Luke Padezan doubled to put runners at second and third. A pair of Olasz wild pitches later and EF was ahead, 2-0.
“Those two runs were on me,” Olasz said. “I knew my team would pick me up.”
Did they ever.
A pair of walks followed by a sacrifice put runners in scoring position for the Titans (6-2, 2-0) in the bottom of the first. Ryan Kandsberger singled in a run, Carassanesi doubled in another and Olasz two more with a triple.
“The answer,” Kuzma said. “It is a dagger in the heart when you give up runs early like that, but to respond like that is even bigger. To come back and score five there you just take all the pressure back off your pitcher.”
Champ echoed the same story.
“That was a big momentum switch right off the bat,” Champ said. “One thing that I preach is that you can't walk batters. You take the momentum that we had and hand it right back to them.”
The Titans added two unearned runs in the third and then put the game away with four in the fifth on the strength of run-scoring hits by Olasz, Lapko and Zach Fodor to make it 11-2.
“If we are firing on all cylinders, we are going to be tough to beat,” Kuzma said. “We can't have bad moments in the field and at the plate. If we don't we are can be tough.”