Early lossess served as motivation for Greensburg Central Catholic

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

After beginning section play with a 1-2 record this season, it looked as if a playoff berth may be a reach for the Greensburg Central Catholic baseball team.

But just a month later, the team will enter the WPIAL playoffs as a second-place team in Section 4-AA.

For the Centurions (11-4. 9-3) and first-year coach Anthony Manley, the two early-season one-run losses to section leaders Shady Side Academy and Steel Valley have only led his team to become stronger and make its playoff push.

“We've faced a lot of adversity defensively, offensively and as a team we faced some adversity. It was tough to go against that early on, but the guys have responded, and I think that's going to make them stronger and help us in the playoffs,” Manley said.

“To lose two big section games early was tough, but the kids have battled and stuck through it. We're in good position to make a nice run.”

A big reason for the team's success has been the hitting ability of two seniors — Garrett Brooks and Sean Bialecki.

Brooks, the team's leadoff hitter, is hitting at a staggering clip of .600 and is tied for the second best batting average in the WPIAL, to go along with his 15 RBI. Meanwhile, Bialecki is batting .523 while also chipping in with 19 RBI.

For Manley, the team's success starts at the top of the order with Brooks and his ability to get on base.

“He's our leadoff hitter, he squares up the ball, he's on base, he's quick,” Manley said. “He's just a great guy to have at the top of the lineup. … He knows what it takes to win. He's a competitor, he's a great kid to coach.”

Added Brooks: “I'm seeing the ball really well this year. I'm just trying to stay relaxed and play consistently the whole time.”

That type of hitting, along with a deep rotation of pitchers, has kept the Centurions balanced.

Bialecki, along with senior Corey Marshall and Collin Liberatore, has anchored the pitching staff. Despite being just a sophomore, Liberatore has four wins.

“Our pitching's been excellent this year,” Brooks said. “We have three really good pitchers, and they bring a lot. They're all three leaders and they lead the team by keeping us in the game.”

That, along with the energy Manley has brought with him after working as an assistant coach at Greensburg Salem for two seasons, has also helped the team this year.

“Our coach keeps us very disciplined and into the games at all times,” Brooks said.

So while advancing to the playoffs is a nice achievement for the Centurions, Manley recognizes that once the postseason begins, every team is right back to square one and his club will have a step-by-step mentality.

“Once you're in, anything can happen so it doesn't matter if you're a No. 1 seed or the lowest seed,” he said. “We want to win one game and we move on and take care of the next. We look at it as an inning-by-inning, game-by-game approach.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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