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Greensburg Salem baseball to rely on senior leaders

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By Kevin Ritchart
Thursday, April 3, 2014, 2:36 p.m.

Nobody is going to run away with the Section 2-AAA championship, according to Greensburg Salem baseball coach Bill Wisniewski.

“Every team will compete,” Wisniewski said. “We're all capable of knocking each other off.”

The Golden Lions finished the 2013 season with an overall record of 7-10 and a 6-6 mark in Section 2-AAA, which left them one game shy of qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs.

Wisniewski has a senior-heavy roster this season, but so do many of the other teams in the section.

“The all-section team last year was mostly juniors,” Wisniewski said. “Almost every team in the section has a lot coming back.

“Expectations are high for everybody.”

The Golden Lions began the season with a pair of nonsection losses last week — 4-0 at Belle Vernon and 19-6 at home against Hempfield.

“It was good to get out and compete,” Wisniewski said. “Those are two good teams, probably playoff teams.

“It gives us a good barometer of where we need to be.”

Chief among Wisniewski's concerns as section competition begins are the defensive lapses that led to several unearned runs in last week's games.

“We made fielding errors, throwing errors, just fundamental baseball mistakes you can't make,” Wisniewski said. “You can't give teams extra outs.

“We have to clean that up.”

Greensburg Salem was scheduled to open section play Monday at home against Indiana, the defending Section 2-AAA champion, but the game was postponed.

Both teams return their starting defensive lineups from last season as well as their No. 1 pitchers, Indiana's Sean Thompson and Golden Lions' senior right-hander Pat Boyer.

At 6-foot-6, Boyer is an imposing figure on the mound, but Wisniewski touts Boyer's knowledge of the game as much as his physical prowess as the reason for his success.

“He understands the game well,” Wisniewski said of his ace. “He knows what he needs to do out there.

“He knows his body, and he utilizes it well.”

Boyer can throw as many as four different pitches effectively on any given day, including the newest weapon in his arsenal, a split-finger fastball.

“The bottom just drops out of it,” Wisniewski said. “It kind of dances, then it just falls off the table.”

Offensively, Greensburg Salem will lean heavily on senior Max Ponzurick, a Virginia Tech recruit who missed half of last season because of hamstring and arm injuries.

“He tried to fight through it, but he couldn't run, he couldn't hit and we lost him completely,” Wisniewski said. “He could barely pick up a baseball.”

Ponzurick — who racked up three hits in the first two games of the season last week — will play shortstop for the Golden Lions, but Wisniewski thinks he'll find a home at a corner infield or outfield spot in college.

Senior Greg Neumann, who earned all-section honors at catcher last season, once again will serve as the Greensburg Salem backstop.

“He's started for us since his sophomore year,” Wisniewski said. “He has worked hard to improve his game.

“He'll do anything for this team.”

In all, Wisniewski has 12 seniors on his roster. He expects all of them to contribute in one way or another.

“This team will be defined by senior leadership,” Wisniewski said. “Our success or failure will be determined by how we play as a team.”

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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