Playoff-bound Yough hopes to finish regular-season strong
Yough's baseball team has some unfinished business, despite qualifying for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The Cougars (9-8, 7-4) sealed a postseason berth with an uninspired 4-2 victory Wednesday at Laurel Highlands.
“It was an ugly win,” coach Jeremy Zufall said. “Neither team played well, but Cody (Overly) pitched a solid five innings, allowing only one run.
“Our goal from the start was to win the WPIAL title. Our next goal was to win the section, and that's out of the picture. We don't care who we play. We don't want to be one and done.”
Zufall, also the school's wrestling coach, is in his first season at Yough after the school board opened the position held by longtime coach Terry Odelli after last season.
What Odelli had started, Zufall wants to finish. With a week left in the season, Yough is in the thick of the Section 3-AAA race.
The Cougars are in third place behind Indiana (12-3, 8-2) and Derry (8-5, 7-3).
Yough, which was 9-10 overall and 7-7 in Section 2-AAA last year, has one section game left, home against Mt. Pleasant (7-8, 4-5) on Monday.
“We want to finish strong,” Zufall said. “That's why the game with Mt. Pleasant (Monday) is important.”
Zufall has his team playing baseball with a wrestling mentality: not quitting when times are tough.
That has helped them win games with late-inning rallies. The biggest comeback win came against Mt. Pleasant on April 18. The Cougars trailed, 7-1, early but rallied for a 9-8 victory. Yough also rallied in the late innings to defeat Uniontown and Greensburg Salem.
“The Mt. Pleasant game was a test,” Zufall said. “We could have folded, but we found a way to win. The players started believing what we were teaching them. We knew we had some good players returning, but now they are starting to find their niche. We've overcome a lot adversity. We're starting to pay attention to details.”
And that work ethic comes from hours of practice.
“When we're not playing, we're practicing six days a week,” Zufall said. “They want to be at practice. They don't mind putting in the extra work. We don't want any excuses if we don't achieve our goals.”
Seniors Luke Spisak, Brad Bisko and Tucker Slatosky have been the leaders.
Bisko, who plays shortstop, leads the team in hitting with a .388 average, 19 hits, 12 RBI and five doubles. Slatosky, a center fielder, is hitting .340 with 18 hits, 11 runs and 11 stolen bases.
Spisak, who pitches and plays third base, is batting .383. He leads the team with 14 runs scored, three triples and 15 stolen bases. He also has three doubles and 10 RBI. On the mound, Spisak is 3-2 with a 1.12 ERA.
“Luke is our workhorse on the mound,” Zufall said. “He wants the ball.”
The other pitcher is junior C.J. Vargo, who is 4-0 with a 2.44 ERA.
And while the seniors are the leaders, Zufall said many players have contributed.
Overly, a junior infielder, is hitting .300 with 15 hits, 10 RBI and nine stolen bases, while junior outfielder Josh Sterner is batting. 308.