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Southmoreland baseball makes playoff push

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Kelly Vernon | The Independent-Observer
Southmoreland senior Aaron Bailey at bat March 31 in a home game against Jeannette, a game won by the Scotties 10-7.
Top high school sports
Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Southmoreland baseball team finds itself in the middle of a jumble in Section 4-AA as teams fight for a spot in the WPIAL playoffs.

Steel Valley seems to be the prohibitive favorite with a 6-0 section record (7-0 overall) as of April 21. After that, matters are tight. Shady Side Academy was 3-1 in the section as of that date, Greensburg Central Catholic 3-2, Jeannette 2-2, Southmoreland 2-4 and East Allegheny 1-3.

With the season heading into its stretch run, coach Brian Shipley knows the Scotties team can't afford many losses.

“Obviously, we'd like to be in a little better position in the section, standings-wise,” Shipley said. “We started off strong. We started off 2-0. We lost a close one to East Allegheny, which could come back to haunt us. I think six wins this year gets you in the playoffs, so you have to beat those teams that are our caliber.”

The Scotties started the season well with five wins in their first six games, including those two section wins. However, four straight losses in section games put the Scotties in a precarious situation.

“We haven't hit.” Shipley said. “We've had a lot of errors in games. Our pitching is there, but you have to make the plays. You can't make errors. You have to make the routine plays. The games we've won, we've pitched well and haven't made (many) errors and we had clutch hits. That's what you have to do to win. We've been competitive. We've worked hard to get to this point. We just can't let it slip away.”

Shipley added another key to coming up with enough wins to secure an invitation to the postseason party is confidence.

“It doesn't matter who you're playing,” Shipley explained. “You can be playing the number one team in the WPIAL, you have to go out and do the same things you've been doing against everybody. You have to play your game and stay focused on doing the things you know how to do....You have to be mentally prepared no matter who you're playing.”

Senior Kody Paulton has noticed the team's improvement on offense this season, but echoed the sentiments of his coach that the team has to be better with the gloves.

“We're scoring a lot more than we used to,” he said, before stating the keys to success the remainder of the season. “No more errors and keep hitting like we have been, scoring runs. If we had less errors I think we could beat every team in the section.”

Paulton said he feels his team has what it takes to make a run to the postseason.

Shipley said a number of players, such as Paulton, have stepped up this season to help the Scotties be competitive.

These include: senior Brian Shaffer who has a batting average of better than .300, sophomore Doug Leighty who also is hitting above .300, junior Michael Baird, who has excelled on the mound, and catcher Chas King, who has done a fine job behind the plate.

A big highlight for the Southmoreland baseball team was the annual game at PNC Park, which the Scotties won over Valley April 13. Max Ridenour ripped a bases-clearing triple in the bottom of the sixth to give the Scotties a lead they did not relinquish. In the top of the seventh, Paulton put the finishing touches on the contest by retiring Valley on three pitches.

“It was a great experience,” Paulton said. “I wish I could do that every day...I knew they were expecting fastballs, so I gave them sliders.”

Now the focus is squarely on trying to find a way into the playoffs.

“I think the only team that can beat us is ourselves,” Shipley said. “We can beat anybody.”

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or

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