Quaker Valley baseball continues unbeaten run
Three Class AA baseball teams from the WPIAL entered last week undefeated. Only Quaker Valley escaped unscathed.
While Neshannock and Jeannette each were dealt their first losses, the Quakers pushed their record to 9-0 overall and 7-0 in Section 1-AA with a 22-0 blowout over Avonworth and a 5-3 battle Tuesday with South Side Beaver.
“We are enjoying the ride,” senior outfielder Clayton Bouchard said. “But we know it isn't over yet. If we are off our game, a team from the section can beat us.”
South Side Beaver pitcher Dustin Lander did all he could to keep the Quakers down. In the first five innings, the senior struck out nine batters and allowed his team to take a 1-0 lead entering the top of the sixth. But after allowing runners to get on first and second, the Rams coaching staff made a switch and Quaker Valley came alive.
Bouchard walked with the bases loaded to tie the score at 1-1, and a T.J. Kuny single to left field drove home another run to give the Quakers the lead. Three wild pitches followed that allowed the Quakers to extend their lead to 5-1.
“The pitching change more than anything helped us,” Quaker Valley coach Todd Goble said. “The guys started putting the bat on the ball and being more aggressive. We talk about being tough and fighting ‘till the end, and that is what these guys have done all year long.”
South Side Beaver scored runs in the bottom of the sixth and seventh but were unable to pull any closer.
The win gave Quaker Valley a two-game lead in Section 1-AA. The Quakers are followed closely by New Brighton (5-2) and a group of teams with three losses — Seton-La Salle (4-3), Freedom (3-3) and Carlynton (2-3). The Quakers said they know teams are now going to be gunning for the them in the second round of section play and they are ready for it.
“Who wouldn't want that?” Kuny asked. “We are going to be getting the best from every team, and it makes the games more fun. It will help bring out the best in us.”
It is a much welcomed turnaround for the Quakers, as the team has missed the playoffs the past seven years. The team did get its first winning record in six years last season, finishing 10-6, but fell short of the postseason after dropping the season finale to Seton-La Salle, 3-2, in extra innings.
“That was extremely tough,” Kuny said. “Going into extra innings and losing by one run was unbearable.”
During the offseason, Goble became the team's new coach, and the Quakers haven't missed a beat during the transition to the new leadership.
“Our senior class has gone through a couple coaching changes, so we are pretty good at adapting to it,” Bouchard said. “Coach Goble is good to play under. I think we all enjoy the way he teaches the game and runs things.”
While the team is excited about the strong first half of the season, it knows there is a lot of work to be done. Many of the team's athletes have been parts of other sports' success at Quaker Valley. From soccer to hockey to basketball, several members of the team have tasted postseason season glory. But after several years of battling and falling short, the baseball team is ready to have its own time on the big stage.
And the Quakers are savoring every moment.
“I played hockey and we are used to playoff success,” Bouchard said. “Coming over to baseball has been tough not making the postseason and not being as successful. This season is different. We are looking to break the drought and get into the playoffs for the first time since 2006. We have a chance to win a section title. It's great.”