Palm expects offense in matchup
With no doubt left on will they or won't they play in the WPIAL Playoffs, the Belle Vernon Area Leopards are ready to go.
The 13th-seeded Leps will take on No. 4-seed Chartiers Valley at Upper St. Clair today at 4:30 p.m.
“It's a huge relief getting all that stuff out of the way,” BVA Coach Dan Palm said. “We've had so much other stuff going on that I don't think that was really a distraction. I really don't think it entered into the kids' minds. They know that what was going on had to do with a coach and not them.
“I do know that we've had great practices Thursday and Friday. We're ready to go.”
BVA Principal Greg Zborovancik said he received a letter from the PIAA at approximately 11:30 a.m. Wednesday saying the Leps (11-8) can participate in the playoffs, despite violating a sanction imposed on the program as a result of an incident that took place during last season's playoffs.
Leps pitching coach Ryan Shetterly was ejected after leaving the third base coaching box to question a call at first base in the third inning of last Monday's game at Elizabeth Forward bringing concerns of the sanctions.
Palm was serving a three-game suspension issued by the district during that game. He'll be in the dugout for today's game, Shetterly will not.
Coming in seeded 13th means nothing to Palm or his team, who lost to Blackhawk in the WPIAL Class AAA Championship Game last season.
“Seeding doesn't matter to me unless it has to do with getting a bye,” Palm said. “Last season, we beat the number two and number three seeds ... we were one pitch away from beating the top seed. It doesn't matter to us. Our ultimate goal was making the playoffs. Hopefully now we can repeat what we were able to do last season when we got here.”
After good practices Thursday and Friday, Palm said his team remains focused, even getting together in the batting cage over the weekend.
Chartiers Valley (16-4) finished tied for first in Section 3. The Colts aren't a team that this group of Leps isn't familiar with.
“We played them in the playoffs a couple of years ago,” Palm said. “A lot of our kids and their kids played a big role in that game.”
The Colts beat the Leps, 9-6, in that 2011 game. Palm said he wouldn't be surprised if today's game is similar.
“You never know how the game will turn out, but I expect there'll be some runs scored and some hitting,” Palm said.
Taking the mound for the Leps will be their “big game” pitcher, Tyler Frankel, who is a deceiving 0-3 this season.
“He's taken the hill in all of our big games this year,” Palm said of his senior hurler. “There were a lot of games where he would start and get a no-decision and a reliever would get the win. I have the highest confidence in him.”
And why not.
Frankel held top-seeded South Park to two runs in a 2-0 loss. The Eagles average over 10 runs per game.
As for a lineup today, Palm said either Dom Francia or Parker Lynn will be Frankel's battery mate, while the other will be in the outfield, most likely left field.
Around the infield will be Dylan Pietrantoni at first, Matt Callaway at second, Joe Simsic at short and either Dylan Stark or Jimmy Amoroso at third.
Adam Ferita will play center with Adam Holliday in right.
Jake Hartman is the designated hitter.
“Defense is going to be the key,” Palm said. “Both teams are going to get their hits, so we'll need to play sound defense.”
Palm said he expects the Colts, led by coach Jim Jaskowski to throw lefty Matt Mulvihill.
“He's a big kid with a good arm,” Palm said. “We've seen a lot of lefties this season, so I guess that could help. Every kid is different.”
The winner of today's game will take on the winner of the No.12 Elizabeth Forward - No. 5 Keystone Oaks game.
Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2667.