Steel Valley's Vickers earns Daily News Coach of Year
Over the last seven years, Tim Vickers has been slowly selling his Steel Valley players on the fact they could become one of the better teams in the WPIAL.
It was a difficult chore for an Ironmen program that only had achieved limited success in nearly two decades. But it took only a few seconds for Vickers to point out the exact moment when his team went from skeptics to vested buyers.
“Early in the season, we had a game against Greensburg Central Catholic where we were down by a lot of runs early, and we battled, and battled and battled,” Vickers said. “It was a Friday night game, and I don't think I got home until like 8:30 p.m. that night and ... a win that early in the season against a team of that caliber that was picked to go to the championship game, I think that gave our team the confidence they could play with anybody.”
Steel Valley fell behind, 9-3, after two innings and 12-5 after four on the Centurions home field but came up with 10 runs in the sixth and seventh innings to pull out a shocking, 17-16, win over a section title contender. Propelled by that April 5 victory, the Ironmen swept Greensburg Central Catholic and perennial thorn in the team's side Shade Side Academy.
Those four wins helped Steel Valley to a 10-2 record in Section 4, which locked up a spot in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs and was good enough for the Ironmen to take their first outright section title since 1994. With that kind of rare success, it's easy to see why Vickers is the 2013 Daily News Baseball Coach of the Year.
“It feels good to know that somebody other than the players and the community recognizes all the work you put in,” Vickers said. “Personally, I work very hard, and it doesn't stop when the playoffs are over, but it's the players that work the hardest out of everyone involved and deserve this honor because I didn't throw a pitch or hit a ball.”
Though the come-from-behind win over Greensburg Central Catholic was the catalyst for Steel Valley's success, the true belief came a couple of weeks later when the Ironmen went on the road and rolled over Shady Side Academy, 9-2. Prior to that, the Ironmen lost all eight games to the Indians since dropping into Class AA in 2009.
“Whether it was an individual player or just the name on the uniform, we hadn't beaten them in a very long time,” Vickers said. “It was that win right there that it what told them that this could be our year.”
For a time, it was. Steel Valley not only won the section but went into the WPIAL Class AA playoffs as the No. 6 seed. Unfortunately, the Ironmen's dream of winning the school's first title didn't last long after they couldn't hold an early 5-2 lead against Chartiers-Houston in a 7-5 opening-round playoff loss.
That loss, though, made the players buy even more into what Vickers was selling them.
“They're already working,” Vickers said. “We had a talk on the bus after the playoff loss about what each individual and coach needed to do to get better for next year. A lot of them are convinced, and so they're already working on physical conditioning and getting stronger.”