Steel Valley baseball vows to change recent playoff history
It's been a while since Steel Valley won a first-round WPIAL playoff game — seven years to be exact.
But if you believe Ironmen sophomore pitcher Brandon Donovan, “That's going to change in 2013.”
The WPIAL released its playoff brackets Thursday with Steel Valley being awarded the sixth-seed in Class AA. The Ironmen will take on 11th-seeded Chartiers-Houston at Upper St. Clair at 2 p.m. Monday.
“The attitude of this team is that this section title wasn't enough,” Steel Valley coach Tim Vickers said. “They told me the day after winning the section that it was the last day to celebrate this title. We hit reset right now and have bigger and better things to do.”
Five other local teams will begin their quest for a baseball championship, but perhaps none has a better path than Serra Catholic.
The Eagles (16-1) claimed a No. 1 seed for the fourth time in the past five years after winning their final 12 games and running away with the Section 2-A championship.
“For the steering committee, I think it has a lot to do with what you've done in the past, and I don't know if I necessarily agree with that,” Serra coach Brian Dzurenda said. “But the kids earned it. Not much else I can say other than we are happy with where we are at.”
Serra will play Springdale (6-7) at 2 p.m. Monday at CCAC-Boyce. Serra edged Springdale, 2-0, on April 4.
“Believe it or not, we only had four hits, and they were all in the first inning,” Dzurenda said. “I am actually glad that happened so we won't' go in there with a false sense of security.”
In Class AAAA, Norwin (9-7) got the last seed in the tournament and will take on No. 2 North Allegheny (16-4) at Shaler at 4:30 p.m. Monday. In Class AAA, Thomas Jefferson (12-8) got the No. 9 seed and will oppose No. 8 Indiana (14-3) at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Gateway. Elizabeth Forward (13-6) got the 12th seed and will play No. 5 Keystone Oaks (14-4) at 2 p.m. Monday at West Mifflin.
No. 16 Yough (9-10) will play No. 17 Knoch (9-9) at noon Saturday at Shaler in a preliminary-round game with the winner taking on top-seeded South Park (20-0) on Monday at Gateway.
“It's one game at a time now, I promise you that,” Vickers said.
Even though Steel Valley won a preliminary-round playoff game in 2009, the Ironmen will be looking for a first-round playoff win and an extended playoff run for the first time since they advanced to the semifinals as a 12 seed in 2006.
The Ironmen lost the past two years — 5-3 and 4-1 — in the first-round as a No. 12 seed.
“These kids have been there and seen it the past two years,” Vickers said. “We are not going to be intimidated by any means by the size of the stage. No matter what, these kids are ready to go. I don't think they are going to overlook anybody. They really haven't done it all year.”
The Ironmen will have to deal with the Bucs and senior pitcher Dylan Pounds. Chartiers-Houston (11-7) jumped up from Class A this year and finished in a third-place tie in Section 2-AA with Bentworth. The Bucs played in the Class A championship two years ago.
Vickers likely will go with Donovan on the mound. The sophomore is 6-0 on the year and has struck out 43 in 33 2⁄3 innings. Donovan was the winning pitcher during Monday's section-clinching win over Shady Side Academy.
“The No. 1 concern is that there is no tomorrow,” Vickers said. “I know a couple WPIAL teams over the past couple years not pitching their monster pitcher in the first round, and they lost. I am not going to take that chance of that happening with this team. Win the one in front of you.”
Steel Valley is led offensively by Derek Morrison, who is hitting .477 with 16 RBI, along with Donovan (.417, 16 runs), sophomore first baseman/pitcher Jesse Cantley (.378, 17 RBI) and junior center fielder Andrew Chuba (.353, 18 runs).
The winner of Steel Valley and Chartiers-Houston will take on either Riverside or Shady Side Academy.