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Latrobe comes up 1 game shy of playoffs

| Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Latrobe baseball team has missed the playoffs by a single game the past three seasons.

This season's hard-luck Wildcats lost to Penn-Trafford last week in a game that cost them a playoff berth, as the Warriors locked up third place in Section 2-AAAA.

Even though the Wildcats (9-10, 7-5) were unable to pull off the season sweep of the Warriors, coach Matt Basciano said the players should not hang their heads.

“Obviously, we would have liked to get into the playoffs. With our tough section that we have, that will definitely prepare those three teams for the playoffs just like how it would have prepared us,” Basciano said.

“It would have been great to make the playoffs, but we just missed it by that one game. They need to keep their heads up since they had a heck of a season.”

After defeating Norwin, 10-8, last Sunday and Kiski Area, 6-5, two days later, the Wildcats fell to Penn-Trafford, 6-0, after running into senior pitcher Tyler Smith, who only allowed four hits while striking out 12 batters.

“It was kind of the playoffs the last couple of games for us. We handled it the same by taking it one game at a time, one pitch at a time and one batter at a time,” Basciano said.

“We ran into Tyler Smith, who was stud out there. He was on and he kept us off balance. We scattered hits here and there.”

The most memorable moments came in recent weeks. The first came April 25 when Latrobe defeated Penn-Trafford, 8-7, at home. The most recent occurred on the road at Norwin, when the Wildcats won last Sunday.

“Those were the big ones. We had a tough loss to Kiski and the first loss to Hempfield was a rough one,” Basciano said. “In that game, we gave up four runs in the first and Josh Keefe had a no-hitter for the rest of the game. We couldn't get any offense together during the Hempfield game.

“We didn't have one individual great game. We just had a great team effort throughout this great season.”

The Wildcats were led by a strong influx of senior players, who Basciano will look to replace next season.

The Wildcats will lose pitcher/outfielder Josh Keefe (.267, 3-4) and pitcher/third baseman Jonathan Kolling (2-2). Also, Latrobe will lose three in the field — second baseman Johnny Saunders, outfielder Brett Vallorani (.388, 3-0) and right fielder Alex Powell (.230).

Although Basciano believes no one player stands out above the others, Latrobe will look for juniors Seth Holler (.411) and Mike Rodgers (.309) to continue their success next year. Freshman Jared Kollar also hit .279.

“We have some younger kids that stepped up this year. Some earned some starting positions and some others saw some time in different roles,” Basciano said. “We had a good year and we will get together a couple more times and enjoy what we did this past year. But after that we will start looking ahead to next year.”

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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