Steel Valley baseball routs Greensburg Central Catholic to extend unbeaten start
Tim Vickers went with the one-game-at-a-time approach when it came to his Steel Valley baseball team a year ago, and it resulted in the program's first section title in 19 years but a first-round exit from the playoffs.
So, at a team goals meeting before the season, a more precise approach was agreed upon: one pitch at a time.
“You can only control the pitch in front of you, not the ones that have passed, and that's our way of thinking,” Vickers said.
That approach didn't take long to pay dividends, especially against perennial Section 4-AA power Greensburg Central Catholic.
Steel Valley brushed aside five early errors Thursday and batted around in consecutive innings. The Ironmen scored 11 unanswered runs over the final four innings to remain unbeaten with a 12-4 win over pitching-depleted Greensburg Central Catholic at West Field.
Steel Valley improved to 5-0 overall and ran its section winning streak to eight games dating back to last April. The Ironmen beat GCC (4-3, 1-1) for the sixth consecutive time.
“We know GCC is always a team to be reckoned within our section, so this was an important win for us,” winning pitcher Derek Morrison said. “It started off pretty rough, but we knew we are a team that is capable of putting up a lot of runs.”
That's an understatement.
All nine starters had at least one hit, with Brandon Donovan (4 for 5, four RBIs), Andrew Chuba (3 for 4) and Morrison (2 for 3) combining for nine hits and eight RBIs. The Ironmen had a season-high 16 hits.
“We came out flat,” Vickers said. “All we have been doing was hitting indoors, but all of a sudden, something clicked, and they realized that we were here to play a baseball game.”
That wasn't before Steel Valley kicked the ball around for Morrison through three innings.
One error in the first led to two runs, and four more in a span of four hitters in the fourth gave GCC a 4-1 lead.
The miscues did nothing to shake Morrison's confidence.
“I've have pitched games before where teams have went up on you, and the biggest thing from a pitching standpoint is that you have to keep your composure,” Morrison said. “Don't get me wrong. It was frustrating, but as soon as I let my fielders know I am upset with the errors, it tells them I am defeated as well.”
Morrison, who went 5 1⁄3 innings allowing five hits and striking out seven, held the damage to a minimum through three innings by forcing GCC to strand six runners, including four in scoring position.
“Especially with that offense as good as it is, we felt fortunate we weren't down more,” Vickers said. “Derek has done that his entire career. He finds a way to battle out of jams.
“If there is anybody I want out there in that situation, it's him.”
With GCC coach Anthony Manley well aware that starter Cole Reese was only able to go three innings because he threw six Sunday — and that fellow ace Collin Liberatore is nursing a broken thumb — he knew four runs wasn't going to be enough.
“We squandered a lot of opportunities; guys on third base with less than two outs,” Manley said. “When you don't score those runs against a good Steel Valley team, most times you aren't going to win the game.”
Reese held Steel Valley to two runs on five hits through three before giving way to sophomore Sam Nowicki. The Ironmen tagged Nowicki for eight hits and eight runs in 1 2⁄3 innings to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 10-4 lead.
Five consecutive batters — Chuba, Donovan, Morrison, Sam Ligeros, Sean McShane — knocked in runs for Steel Valley in the fourth inning to put the game out of reach.
“In the past, I would've said that this was a statement game, but we have big goals ahead of us, and making a statement isn't one of them,” Vickers said.