Serra baseball not slacking off in preparation for consolation game
After a heartbreaking loss that kept his or her team from reaching the championship game, a coach might give the players a couple days off.
Not Serra Catholic baseball coach Brian Dzurenda.
Serra was back on the practice field less than 24 hours after last week's WPIAL Class A semifinal loss to Western Beaver. And again the next day, and the next, and the next. The Eagles didn't even take off Memorial Day.
“We are not done yet is why,” Dzurenda aid. “When we practice a day after losing, we are telling the kids that this isn't over yet. We have another tournament to prepare for.”
A tournament that Dzurenda takes seriously.
Serra played in three of the last four state championship games, including winning the 2011 state title via the route it faces this year: the WPIAL consolation game.
Serra (18-2) will take on California (17-5) in the Class A consolation game Wednesday at Washington & Jefferson College (4 p.m.) with a berth in the state playoffs on the line.
“Everybody always focuses on the WPIAL,” Dzurenda said. “Nobody says that we went to three straight state title games, winning one. This is important to us.”
The importance is reflected in the results.
Serra has won at least two games in each of the four times it qualified for the state playoffs. The Eagles have won 12 of the 15 PIAA playoff games they have played, with two of the losses coming in the championship game.
“These kids are very motivated and very focused right now,” Dzurenda said. “I talk to these kids all the time about reaching their potential, and every game is an opportunity to measure yourself against your own potential.”
In Dzurenda's eyes, motivation is a key to the consolation game.
Serra has played in three, with all of them being shortened by the 10-run rule, including against Wednesday opponent California two years ago. Serra beat Cal, 12-0, en route to its state championship.
“I have been in a number of these consolation games in the past, and very rarely are they a close game,” Dzurenda said. “It is usually a one-sided affair.”
One thing is for sure: There won't be many surprises with the two teams.
Dzurenda and California coach Don Hartman are good friends who talk on the phone regularly, making it no surprise that they run their highly successful programs in a similar fashion. Serra and Cal have won four of the 13 championships since the WPIAL added Class A in 1999.
“There are a lot of similarities in the way we prepare the teams,” Dzurenda said. “We are very similar programs right now; neither of us have a definitive No. 1 pitcher but have had highly successful seasons. Speaking for Don, I think we are both very happy to be in this position right now. We didn't expect it at the beginning of the year, but here we are.”
Serra's here on the strength of its pitching led by seniors Wayne Hydak and Chad Hazaga.
Hazaga is 8-0 with a 1.20 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 58 1⁄3 innings. Despite not getting out of the first inning in the semifinal loss to Western Beaver, Hydak is 8-1 with a 1.10 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 50 2⁄3 innings.
Dzurenda said he won't make a decision on who he will start until the day of the game. Same goes for Hartman, who will choose between lefty Brian Fisher and righty Josh Luko.
“Both pitchers aren't overpowering, but they are good,” Dzurenda said. “We are going to have to prepare for both of them.”
Serra's offense has been paced by senior catcher Dylan Kugler. Kugler is hitting .554 with 24 RBI; he's hitting .571 in three playoff games.
Brandon Coddington is hitting .625 in the playoffs to raise his season average to .444. Hydak has struggled in the playoffs, going only 1 of 9, but is still hitting .397 with 33 RBI.
“It might not be the most talented group we had, but, boy, do they work,” Dzurenda said. “I don't think Western Beaver was the better team; they played better than us. I would like to get another crack at them, and the only way do that is to get to the state playoffs.”