Riverview's three-man rotation stifling opponents
Signs of the North Catholic baseball team's frustration Friday afternoon at Riverside Park in Oakmont were subtle at first — a grimace here, a headshake there.
But by the end of Riverview's 5-1 home win, North Catholic's players barely hid their discouragement, ripping helmets off and threatening to slam bats off the ground as they headed back to the bench.
The sights are becoming increasingly common among Riverview's opponents, who've struggled to solve the Raiders' stifling pitching staff and reliable fielders. The dominance of the young men on the mound is a big reason Riverview (6-0, 3-0 in Section 4-A) is ranked No. 2 in WPIAL Class A by Tribune-Review News Service.
“I call them No. 1, 1-A and 1-B,” coach Rich Griser said of his top three starters, senior Anthony Malky and juniors Nick DiBucci and Dom Conte. “We're very blessed to have that. To get to where you want to go, you have to have that.”
While all three deserve praise for their talents, Malky, an Akron recruit, is the ace. He has gone the distance in each of the three games he started — 19 innings' worth of pitching. In those three games, he accumulated 36 strikeouts and allowed just six hits.
Malky's line against North Catholic on Friday included a season-high 15 strikeouts.
“I always want to work ahead, and then I go with the power pitcher mentality, so really, if I don't have to go to the off-speed stuff, I go right at him with the fastball,” Malky said. “And we've got the gloves, so I'm not afraid to let them put it in play.”
Conte struck out 13 during a complete game against West Shamokin. He allowed just three hits in the 6-2 victory.
DiBucci, the owner of the team's only shutout, finished with five strikeouts and allowed three hits in a five-inning victory over Apollo-Ridge. He threw just 61 pitches during the 10-0 blowout.
Junior catcher Jake Paradise sees the stylistic differences in each pitcher — Malky throws heat, DiBucci leans on a curve, and Conte keeps batters guessing. And he admires the way all three baffle opponents.
“When we have such great pitching, it's just fun being back there,” Paradise said. “I think they might have a little agenda between them. Whoever gets the most Ks by the end of the year, the others have to pay up on a bet or something. But I haven't been told about it.”
The Raiders' balance in the field and at the plate makes the team difficult to top even when one of its standouts endures a bad day. Players, familiar with each other after years of shared experiences, possess too much trust in one another's abilities to panic when setbacks occur.
“These junior and senior classes have been together since Little League,” DiBucci said, “and we always succeeded in things like this, so ever since we were little, we knew this would be our year.”