Experienced Mt. Pleasant baseball team has high expectations
After a brief absence from the WPIAL playoffs, the Mt. Pleasant baseball team is counting on seven returning starters to lead it back to the postseason.
The Vikings finished 9-11 overall last season, including a 5-7 mark in Section 2-AAA. Indiana, Yough and Derry earned playoff berths, and Mt. Pleasant finished fifth.
Of the seven returning starters, six are seniors, including Tyler Mellors. Mellors has been on the mound since his freshman season and will again be coach Tom Hudzema's go-to guy.
“He's a bulldog,” Hudzema said. “If he could, he would go out and pitch every game. Tyler's had his ups and downs, but I think he has grown a lot. He became Mt. Pleasant's all-time leading rusher (during the 2013 football season), and the focus and pressure on him helped him mature. Maturity-wise, Tyler is different. He has grown leaps and bounds.”
Mt. Pleasant's other returning starters include seniors Marcus Malara, Ryan Hudec, Luke Liprando, Tyler McElfresh and Mitch Matlas, and sophomore Jake Adamrovich.
Adamrovich, and juniors Greg Holzer and Nathan Pieszak will join Mellors in comprising Hudzema's pitching staff.
Malara will be behind the plate, with Hudec at second base and Adamrovich at third. When he's not pitching, Mellors will man shortstop.
Mt. Pleasant's outfield likely will include Liprando in left, McElfresh in center and Matlas in right.
“One thing we did well last year was hit the ball,” Hudzema said. “We like to play small ball — get runners on, steal bases and put pressure on the other team. But last year our pitching fell short.”
The Vikings again will compete in Section 2-AAA, joining Derry, Greensburg Salem, Indiana, Laurel Highlands, Uniontown and Yough.
“Indiana will be the team to beat,” Hudzema said. “They're loaded. Greensburg Salem will be there, and Derry has always been good because they're well-coached. All the teams are scrappy. Yough will be tough, Uniontown will be tough. Every game will be a dogfight. I hope we can find our little place in there and find a place in the playoffs.”
The Vikings started the season on a positive note, picking up a 6-4 victory over Brownsville on Monday. It was a positive sign for a team Hudzema believes has the capabilities of putting together a solid season.
“Our kids have all the athletic talent in the world and all the potential,” Hudzema said. “We believe in them as coaches, and we have to get them to believe in themselves.”
The Vikings are scheduled to play three more exhibition games before beginning section play. Their next game is Thursday at home against Connellsville.
Dave Stofcheck is a freelance writer.