Riverview's Malky, Deer Lakes' Blinn named Valley News Dispatch baseball, softball players of the year
Riverview's Anthony Malky and Deer Lakes' Hannah Blinn have been named the Valley News Dispatch's baseball and softball players of the year. They are joined by other top Alle-Kiski Valley players, who were named to the first, second and third teams.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Riverview, senior, pitcher
Out of Oakmont's Riverside Park, a statistical monster emerged this spring.
Riverview senior Anthony Malky contended for what might be the WPIAL's two most sought-after distinctions. As a pitcher, he finished the regular season as the WPIAL strikeout leader with 101, and he capped his year with 107 — only Keystone Oaks' Jared Skolnicki, the beneficiary of a long playoff run, had more (111). And as a batter, he had a .577 batting average at the end of his season — only three WPIAL players had better marks.
Malky, a righty who signed with Akron, thrived as a power pitcher. His fastball, regularly in the mid- to high-80s and capable of even cracking 90, helped him accumulate five one-hitters. He pitched a total of 61 innings. The WPIAL Baseball Coaches Association named him the Class A Pitcher of the Year.
When not on the mound, he stood at shortstop. No matter his fielding position, he delivered at the plate and on the basepaths. He stole 25 bases and had a .622 on-base percentage.
For his success in all facets of the game, Malky is the 2013 Valley News Dispatch Baseball Player of the Year.
On which side of the game do you believe you excelled more, at the plate or in the field?
I'd still say my pitching I excelled at more, but my batting was definitely more of a surprise and definitely better than I ever did. I hit the ball better than I ever did and I probably played the field better than I ever did, but I was probably still best at pitching.
What was the difference maker for you as far as batting?
I think the batting sort of was a stress relief thing. The last few years, I didn't know whether I'd be trying to play a position in college and pitch, or if I'd just pitch. Once that was decided at Akron and I knew I was only going to pitch, I sort of didn't have to worry about my batting stats anymore. … I sort of went up there without any expectations, and that made it a lot easier.
Did your production change the situation at Akron at all?
They have some guys there that hit and pitch, so I was sort of joking with my buddies that whoever is DHing for me, if they're not doing a good enough job, then maybe I can try to hit for myself.
Is there a temptation now, or are you happy to just pitch at the college level?
Not to put down the Class A pitching, but it's definitely easier to hit the pitching we saw this year than what I, for example, see on my summer team (Pittsburgh Diamond Dawgs). I'm pretty much strictly a pitcher for them, but every once in a while I get some at-bats, and the majority of the time, I'm overmatched.
How do you feel Class A ball compares to other classes?
I've always thought that in Class A, you have say like three good players on a team. In AA, you have maybe five. In AAA, six or seven. In Class AAAA, you have nine good players. But in the scheme of things, I think the good players in Class A are good players no matter what. Obviously their stats might get a little inflated — even mine might be a little inflated. But in the same sense, I've always thought and known that I would've been a quality pitcher at a AAAA school. At a AAAA school, I might not have struck out 101, but instead of five one-hitters, I might've had five no-hitters because the defense behind you at the upper levels is better than the defense you have behind you at A. … Even at the all-star game, it was A versus AA. We ended up tying them, and we had the lead for most of the game. So right there it shows that if you're good, you're good at pretty much any level.
Have you had to stand up for yourself and say ‘What I'm doing at Riverview is legitimate'? Did you have critics?
There were always little undertones from kids on my summer team and family friends about us playing A or even AA. But playing in the summer and last year, traveling to all the showcases and playing national teams and doing the same thing to them, that sort of backed it up for me.
In college, will power pitching still be your go-to style?
I think I'll still have that as my mentality. I'm still going to try to attack guys and go right after guys, not trying to be timid at all. … When I get to college, I think the big thing for me is I want to have a good curve. I want to be able to throw three pitches (fastball, curveball, change-up) all the same way — each one just as good as the other one. I'm going to lean more on my change-up, which has been really good.
When you throw your fastball, do you have a location preference?
I've always tried to start in and then work away. I bust them in on the hands and then try to paint that outside corner. It looks far enough out that they don't swing at it.
What is your go-to glove brand?
My thing is that every year I go with a new glove. I've pretty much tried them all at this point. My go-to now is definitely Wilson. … It's been Wilson for about two years. I wear the 1800, and it's like the light blonde, light tan color.
How do you feel about the all-blue, the all-red, the all-white — all of the over-the-top color gloves?
I've pretty much always played on black and gold teams. … I've never had the color schemes to wear one of the funky colored gloves, but if my team did have one of those colors, I'd almost definitely have one of those colored gloves.
How about your bat maker preference?
My bats have always been Marucci. They always have what I thought were the best evenly distributed weight bats, because I'm not a home run guy. The power hitters look for the top-heavy bat. I always looked for basically the lightest, evenly-weighted bat, and they always had that.
What is the strangest tradition or superstition for baseball that you have?
I've worn the same three-quarter sleeve Nike/Under Armour-type shirt under my jersey for probably the last three years. The sleeves are pretty worn out, and the logo is worn off of it, but I've worn the same shirt. In my closet, I probably have like eight three-quarter sleeve shirts. There are times where I'm not pitching and I'll maybe wear a different three-quarter sleeve shirt, but I refuse to wear anything but a three-quarter sleeve shirt under my uniform.
Doesn't that get pretty hot at times?
It does. Even when it was cold in the high school games, I had full long sleeves on, but when I came in to pitch, I had to change into three-quarter sleeves.
Are you one of those pitchers who's going to wear a big winter jacket if you make it to the majors and run the bases?
I did that a little bit in high school when it was really cold, so yeah, probably.
Do you feel ridiculous?
Yes, especially when you slide, because then your big jacket that was nice is ruined.
Do you consider baseball players the most superstitious of all athletes?
Definitely the most superstitious. I was watching a College World Series game, and the announcer was talking about baseball players in their own dugout and amongst themselves are probably the weirdest and quirkiest, just because of the handshakes and signals back to the dugout.
What is the PNC Park food you must have?
I go with Nakama every time. … Not any of your standard baseball food. It's like $9, and you get steak and rice. I always figured that filled me up pretty good for the price, compared to like a burger and fries for $15.
Are there any songs or artists you have to listen to before a game?
I'm a big Lady GaGa listener. … The song is “Dance in the Dark.” That's usually on a bus ride before a game. It's just me. It's something other people know, but not really something you share. … And for college, we have to pick out a song for what we come out to pitch to, and I don't know. I'll probably choose a team favorite.
Nik Artman Burrell, Sr., RF
Artman, a strong leadoff hitter, finished with a .511 batting average and drove in 17 runs. He doubled twice and excelled as a base stealer for the Bucs.
Kevin Begley•Deer Lakes, Sr., SS
Begley led the WPIAL semifinalist Lancers in batting average (.480), runs scored (30) and RBI (24). He was named to the WPIAL Baseball Coaches Association Class AA all-star team.
Riverview, Jr., IF/P
DiBucci struck out 47 during a 5-0 season on the mound. Also had a .527 batting average and 20 RBI.
Plum, Fr., 1B
Kiriloff accumulated 10 doubles and two homers while maintaining a .435 batting average. He drove in 19 runs.
Plum, Jr., 2B
Maleski had team highs in batting average (.482), slugging (.714) and on-base percentage (.565). He added 16 RBI and 18 runs.
Plum, Sr., P
Manuppelli, a South Carolina Upstate recruit, showcased his Division I talent by striking out 64 batters in 49 innings.
Freeport, Sr., SS/P
Miller ranked among the WPIAL leaders with his .543 batting average and scored 15 runs. He hit two doubles and two triples.
Riverview, Jr., C
Paradise drove in 21 runs and, with a .689 slugging percentage, was one of the team's top power hitters. He finished with a .444 batting average.
Ford City, Sr., SS/P
Retzer struck out 51 batters on the mound and pounded two homers and 19 RBI during a .533 year at the plate. A West Liberty recruit, he also scored 15 runs and had a .674 slugging percentage for the Sabers.
Knoch, Jr., 1B
Thorn hit nine doubles during a season in which he had an .800 slugging percentage and a .482 average. He had 15 RBI, and in the field, he maintained a .973 fielding percentage.
Zack Abel, Burrell, Sr., LF
Jason Anthony, Riverview, Jr., CF
Dom Conte, Riverview, Jr., OF/P
Adam Fredley, Deer Lakes, Sr., P
Troy Glendenning, Kiski Area, Sr., 1B
Taylor Huber, Fox Chapel, Sr., C
Matt Olesnivich, Deer Lakes, Jr., C
Nick Stotler, Plum, Jr., IF/P
Matt Swartz, Freeport, Jr., C
Chase Voltz, Knoch, Sr., SS
Tanner Baylor, Apollo-Ridge, Sr., C
Bill Clark, Valley, Sr., IF
Tyler Dubovi, Leechburg, Sr., IF/P
Tyler Graham, Kiski Area, Jr., OF
Mitch Johnston, Apollo-Ridge, Jr., Util.
Sam Kiebler, Kittanning, So., Util.
John Kern, Springdale, Sr., P/C
David Lattanzio, Ford City, Sr., CF
Joey Luciana, St. Joseph, Jr., CF
Joe Palumbo, Fox Chapel, Sr., SS
Player of the Year
Deer Lakes, Senior, Catcher
Deer Lakes softball players called Hannah Blinn the “team mother” because of her dependable leadership and ability to nurture teammates through adversity.
The senior catcher and team captain watched over the team with an instinctive patience and guidance that only a four-year starter could provide.
She also led by example at the plate, proving to be arguably the toughest out on a firm-hitting team.
For her efforts, Blinn is the Valley News Dispatch Softball Player of the Year.
Plum's Jordan Seneca, Leechburg's Kenzie Young, Highlands' Gabby Miller and Deer Lakes' Tiffany Edwards also were considered.
Blinn, an Allegheny College recruit, hit .448 (30 for 67) with 35 RBI for the Lancers, who returned to the WPIAL Class AA championship game and made the second round of the PIAA playoffs for the second straight time.
Deer Lakes played in 15 playoff games during her three seasons.
You only struck out once all season. Where does that discipline at the plate come from?
A lot of it is from knowing that if I get it in play, anything can happen. I have become such an aggressive hitter. I am a hitter, though, not a home-run hitter.
The team came back from a 7-0 deficit in the semifinals to defeat Beaver, 11-7, and get back to the WPIAL Class AA championship game. What do you remember most from that game?
(When play resumed after a 93-minute weather delay) I was behind in the count and I told myself to make the next one hurt. I hit the next pitch and it was the greatest feeling. That third inning, the energy in the dugout was amazing.
The team plays backward softball to relax during some practices, with batters hitting from the opposite side of the plate. Who is the best backward player on the team?
CiCi (Sarver) is pretty good as a lefty. It's a lot of fun but it's hard.
The team has a tradition of going out for Chinese food before the playoffs. Word is you got an interesting message in your fortune cookie?
It said, “Great things are yet to come.” That did happen, and it was inspirational, even though we lost (in the WPIAL final).
You're headed to Allegheny College, which had a big season and returns most of its starters, many of whom are from the A-K Valley. Do you think you'll have a chance to play catcher?
I think I do. The girl there (Valley grad Katrina George) is pretty good. If I can hit, I'd be OK with moving to the outfield or first base.
You work at Michael's arts and crafts store?
Yes. I love to craft. I get that from my mom. I am making a Fourth of July T-shirt with spray paint.
Your sister, Sarah, was a freshman starter at third base. What advice can you give her if she moves to catcher next season?
She is going to be in a big leader role. I told her don't be afraid to be the leader.
Twitter or Facebook?
Facebook. I like to put pictures up. It was there first. It's an easier way to communicate with people more privately.
Any guilty pleasures?
Cookies and Creme Arctic Swirl at Edwards' Ice Cream.
TV show you cant miss?
“Big Bang Theory.”
WPIAL softball would be better without?
The last book you read was ...
“Kite Runner,” in AP English.
People would be surprised to know that I...
Have been to Haiti. I went there to help them with a water filtration system. It was through my church.
In five years you will ...
Use my college degree to bring affordable and sustainable energy to other countries. My goal is to do that in Africa.
Kiski Area Sr., SS
Antone, a Winthrop recruit, batted .525 with a .800 slugging percentage, eight doubles and 12 RBI in a tough Class AAAA section.
Deer Lakes, Sr., SS
Babincak, one of the area's top leadoff hitters and a Point Park recruit, hit .365, had four triples, eight steals and 17 RBI for the WPIAL Class A runners-up.
Deer Lakes, So., P
Edwards was 19-2 with a 1.60 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 120 innings, while hitting .400 with seven doubles and 21 RBI for the Lancers.
Burrell, Sr., P
Fisher, a four-year starter and Penn State New Kensington recruit, was 14-4 with 115 strikeouts and also batted .446 with two home runs.
Apollo-Ridge, Sr. SS
A four-year starter and St. Vincent recruit, Geracia led the Vikings with a .574 average, three home runs, 22 RBI and 17 runs.
Freeport, Sr., 1B
Massart, who has committed to play at Allegheny College, batted .481 and led the Yellowjackets in home runs (6) and RBI (28) while also scoring 18 runs.
Highlands, Sr., P
Miller, a four-year starter, hit .581 (32 for 55) with six homers, 29 RBI and struck out just once. She also had four doubles and struck out 56 batters.
Knoch, Jr., P
Reed was one of the most productive dual-threat players in the area, hitting .436 with three home runs and 38 RBI, and was 7-3 as a pitcher for the Knights.
Plum, Jr., SS
A St. Francis (Pa.) recruit, Seneca put up impressive numbers in a strong section, with a .564 average (1.164 slugging pct.), five homers, 10 doubles, four triples, 13 steals, 24 RBI and 35 runs for the Mustangs.
Leechburg, Sr., P
Young, a Carlow recruit, led the Blue Devils at the plate and on the mound, batting .500 with 23 runs, five homers and 24 RBI, while finishing 9-6 as a pitcher with a 1.67 ERA and 136 striketouts in 96 innings.
Sadie Buchser, Riverview, Fr., SS
Katie Gozzard, Deer Lakes, So., 2B
Karlie Hill, Freeport, So., 2B
Emily Lindsey, Freeport, Sr., C
Alyssa Meta, Freeport, Sr., P
Miranda Reesman, Leechburg, So., SS
Sierra Sarver, Deer Lakes, Jr., 1B
Karsan Simpson, Knoch, Sr., C
Nellie Toy, Kittanning, Sr., 1B,
Lyndsey Weiser, Kiski Area, Sr., 2B
Ashley Bruni, Riverview, Sr., C,
Bethany Hay, Knoch, Jr., SS
Megan Hooks, Valley, Jr., C
Melissa LeClair, Plum, Jr., C
Taylor Muffie, Kiski Area, Sr., CF
Kaylee Pistorious, Fox Chapel, Jr., 2B
Lindsay Rowe, Leechburg, Jr., 2B
Danielle Voytko, Highlands, Jr., 2B
Alexis Roenigk, Freeport, Jr., SS
Jenna Wolsonovich, Ford City, Sr., SS