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High praise for Hounds shortstop Kucmeroski

| Saturday, April 5, 2014, 12:16 a.m.
Courtesy photo
Monessen's Josh Kucmeroski, shown swatting a double against California last season, is a four-year starter.

It might not impress many people to hear Monessen baseball coach Bill Matush say that his shortstop, Josh Kucmeroski, may be the best player he has ever coached.

Not really known for baseball, the Greyhounds reached the WPIAL playoffs last year for the first time in 26 seasons.

But what might be impressive about Matush's assessment of Kucmeroski is that the Greyhounds' shortstop is only a junior.

He still has another year to get better.

“If he isn't the best right now, he's pretty high up there,” said Matush, now in his 11th season at Monessen. “Probably the only player I can think of in his class I had here was Evan Senitta, who went on to play baseball at St. Vincent about seven years ago.”

Kucmeroski is in his third year as a starter for Monessen, having played second base as a freshman before moving to short last year.

A year ago, he led the Greyhounds in hitting with a .387 average, and this year he is at it again with a team-leading .500 average, four doubles and four RBIs through four games for Monessen (1-3).

“This is a big year for him,” Matush said. “He is off to a great start and if he continues this pace, he will open a lot of eyes.”

Matush gushes when he talks about Kucmeroski's ability, work ethic and knowledge of the game.

“If I say practice starts at 3:15, he is here at 2:30 right after school stretching and looking for someone to catch with,” Matush said. “He never misses. He works so hard at the game and really loves baseball. I think that's what separates him.

“When it comes to knowing the game, he is definitely the smartest kid I ever had. He really has a good head for the game. He has great focus. He understands baseball more than most kids his age.”

When asked to evaluate Kucmeroski's strength, Matush says it is hitting. Or it could be fielding. Or it could be knowledge of the game.

“He doesn't have many weaknesses,” Matush said. “Maybe he has one — his arm. I would think he is a little out of position at short, but will make an excellent second baseman in college. Of course, he could play outfield in college, too.”

Matush uses a couple of incidents to explain what kind of player Kucmeroski is.

“Earlier this season, we were playing at Southmoreland and it was like 30 degrees, really cold,” he said. “I needed to make a pitching change and the only kid I had was the kid catching, which would have left me with no catcher.

“I looked at Josh and asked him if he would catch and without blinking he said, ‘Yeah, I'll catch.' And he went in there from short and didn't miss a beat. Not too many kids would want to do that.”

The other incident — multiple incidents, actually — that Matush likes to bring up comes from opposing coaches.

“The last couple years, after games, I've had several opposing coaches ask me who that kid is at short stop,” Matush said with a smile. “To me, that's the best compliment you can get for a kid when the other coach notices and asks about you.”

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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