In midst of 7-game winning streak, Quakers relying on pitching, defense

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 10:03 p.m.

There's no identity crisis for the Quaker Valley baseball team as the 2014 season enters the stretch run.

The strength of the Quakers thus far — and the primary reason for their 10-2 overall record — has been a combination of effective pitching and stout defense. Offensively, they're doing enough to win games — seven straight games, in fact.

Quaker Valley (10-2, 8-2) has not lost a game since its first meeting with section rival Seton-La Salle (10-3, 8-2) on April 10. The Quakers and fifth-ranked Rebels are tied for second place in Section 1-AA behind third-ranked South Side Beaver (12-1, 9-1).

Quakers coach Todd Goble would like to see more consistent offensive production from his team, but he's comfortable with the brand of baseball his squad has been playing.

“As long as we're good at pitching and defense, that will keep us in games,” Goble said. “We need to be a smart, fundamental team.

“We know who we are and what we have to do.”

Quaker Valley's recent offensive woes can be attributed to taking too many good pitches early in at-bats, Goble said.

“It's about taking the right approach,” Goble said. “We've been getting ourselves into bad counts by taking too many pitches.

“We talk about it all the time in practice, but ultimately it's up to the players.”

Quaker Valley notched a pair of section victories last week — 6-0 at home against Freedom and 4-1 at Brentwood — both of which are vital in the team's late-season push to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.

Senior pitcher Ben Utterback earned the complete-game victory in the Brentwood win and hit a home run.

“He threw well,” Goble said of Utterback, who finished the game having thrown less than 100 pitches. “He was getting ahead of hitters and mixing his pitches.”

Quaker Valley's hitters did get the barrel of the bat on the ball a few times at Brentwood, but they didn't have much to show for it on the scoreboard.

“We hit some balls hard, but they were right at people,” Goble said.

Quaker Valley opened play this week a game back of South Side Beaver in the section standings. The Rams beat the Quakers, 3-0, in their first meeting April 9. The two teams are scheduled to meet again Wednesday afternoon at South Side Beaver.

“This week, we play all of the other teams in contention (for the playoffs),” Goble said. “We're playing all of the teams that are right there.

“This week will determine where we end up.”

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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