Quaker Valley baseball team reflects on 'special' season
After the Quaker Valley baseball team fell to Beaver, 7-0, in the PIAA Class AA semifinals last week, coach Todd Goble had two words for his team: Thank you.
“They exceeded all expectations,” the Quakers' first-season coach said. “No one in the community thought they would go undefeated in the regular season and win the section title or make it one game from playing for a state title. This was a special group. I don't know if they understand what they accomplished.”
The Quakers finished the season with a 23-2 mark, the only losses coming to Beaver in the postseason. Along the way the team reached the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and made its first WPIAL title game since 1984.
“You can look back at the record and just think about how many teams wish they went 23-2,” Goble said. “I enjoyed every practice and being around the kids. They are great young men. Whether it was the 23 wins or the two defeats, they carried themselves with class and sportsmanship.”
Pitching was a driving force behind Quaker Valley's strong season. Sophomore Tyler Garbee picked up an 8-0 mark during the regular season. Junior Matt Delie went 4-0 during the regular season and struck out 40 batters. Senior Jake Pilewicz also went 4-0 with 39 strikeouts.
Junior Christian Miller went 2-0 and pitched four innings of scoreless relief to clinch the Section 1-AA title for the Quakers in a 8-4 win over New Brighton on May 2.
Garbee picked up three wins on the mound in the postseason as he defeated Burrell in the WPIAL playoffs and Saegertown and Shady Side Academy in the PIAA tournament
No pitcher threw more than 100 pitches in any start. The Quakers allowed an average of only 2.4 runs per game.
“Offense will come and go, but pitching and defense will keep you in games,” Goble said. “And for the most part our pitching and defense was extraordinary. I saw some unbelievable plays from kids on defense.”
The batting was also on target for Quaker Valley. Pilewicz had a .478 average in the regular season and senior Nelson Westwood hit .453. Senior Clayton Bouchard scored 25 runs during the regular season and scored a run in each of the first 17 games. He was stranded on third twice during the Quakers' 6-2 season finale win over Ambridge. Senior T.J. Kuny added 17 runs, Westwood finished with 18 and junior Ben Utterback ended with 17.
Bouchard had a .462 batting average during the WPIAL playoffs while scoring three runs and hit .625 during the PIAA run, including going 4 for 4 against Shady Side Academy. Pilewicz hit .400 throughout the postseason run, while Westwood had five RBI and two triples during the WPIAL playoffs.
While the team statistics are impressive, what may have been the secret ingredient to the Quakers' success was chemistry. The coaching staff purposely did not show the players any of the stats until after the completion of the season as they stressed the team first-concept.
“The chemistry really grew throughout the season,” Bouchard said. “In the playoffs it reached its highest point. It was big in keeping our spirits up.”
It was a fitting end for the careers of the team's seven seniors. While their first three seasons all ended on a sour note, the 2013 season made up for it as they led the team to one of the greatest seasons in program history.
“This senior class is best friends,” Bouchard said. “There are so many little stories from all the games and practices and bus rides. Making the undefeated run then through WPIALs into states is something I will always be able to look back and remember.”