Derry baseball team holding out hope for playoff berth

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Over the course of a season, some losses hurt more than others.

For the Derry baseball team, last Thursday's 7-6 defeat at Mt. Pleasant hurt — a lot.

The Trojans led 6-2 and needed three outs to get the win, but Mt. Pleasant managed to score five runs in the bottom of the seventh for the walk-off victory — the Vikings' first in the section this season.

“Everything went right for them, and everything went wrong for us,” Derry coach John Flickinger said.

With the season quickly coming to a close, victories are at a premium for the Trojans as they battle for a postseason berth in Section 2-AAA.

The loss to Mt. Pleasant left Derry at 4-5 in section play and in fourth place in the standings behind Laurel Highlands, Indiana and Uniontown at the start of the week.

The top three teams in each section will qualify for the postseason.

The Trojans entered this week needing wins in all three of their remaining section games to have a shot at the WPIAL playoffs.

Flickinger held a team meeting last Friday to shift focus away from the Mt. Pleasant loss and toward the challenges that lie ahead in the season's final week.

“I told them we still have a legitimate shot at the playoffs,” Flickinger said. “Everything is still up in the air.

“These kids are still hungry. They'll be OK.”

The day before the Mt. Pleasant loss, Derry posted a 6-1 win over Yough in a pivotal section home game.

The good news heading into the season's final days, according to Flickinger, is that his team is playing what he sees as its best baseball late in the season.

“I've seen us struggle offensively early in the season and drop a couple of games,” Flickinger said. “It's the opposite of last year when we started out so strong.

“We're playing great baseball. We're at our strongest point right now.”

Senior Joe Kelly, who was Derry's No. 2 starter at the outset of the 2014 campaign, began this week with a 5-0 record. He'll be counted on to log some big innings down the stretch.

“He's not flashy,” Flickinger said of his ace. “He just gets outs.”

Kelly, who has one complete game to his credit, owns a 3.27 ERA and has held the opposition to a .241 batting average.

The Trojans' offense has been paced by senior Luke Ridilla. His .500 batting average entering play this week was the highest on the team. He also leads the team in hits, with 18, and has shown good speed on the base paths, stealing a team-high 14 bases without being caught.

Ridilla and fellow seniors Zack Zimmerman and Johnny Panizzi have done the majority of the scoring for Derry. The trio entered this week having scored 14 runs apiece.

Junior Cameron Gerhard leads the team in RBIs with 16.

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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