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Chartiers Valley heads into postseason riding a hot streak

Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item - Josh Lapiana throws a pitch during Chartiers Valley's 3-2 win over Keystone Oaks on Thursday, April 24, 2014, at Woodville Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item</em></div>Josh Lapiana throws a pitch during Chartiers Valley's 3-2 win over Keystone Oaks on Thursday, April 24, 2014, at Woodville Field.
Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item - Chartiers Valley's Brady Gulikowski connects on a hit during the Colts' 2-0 win over Canon-McMillan on Thursday, March 27, 2014, at Woodville Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item</em></div>Chartiers Valley's Brady Gulikowski connects on a hit during the Colts' 2-0 win over Canon-McMillan on Thursday, March 27, 2014, at Woodville Field.
Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item - Jake Ritson fields a ball during Chartiers Valley's 2-0 win over Canon-McMillan on Thursday, March 27, 2014, at Woodville Field.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Randy Jarosz | for the Signal Item</em></div>Jake Ritson fields a ball during Chartiers Valley's 2-0 win over Canon-McMillan on Thursday, March 27, 2014, at Woodville Field.

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A focus on the team helped the Chartiers Valley baseball squad bring out the best in its individual players.

After starting the season 1-2, the Colts pulled together and finished on a 14-1 run with a 10-0 mark in Section 3-AAA play.

“We had a rough start going 1-2,” senior Josh Lapiana said. “But we found our rhythm and we became more of a team over the last couple of weeks. We started hanging out and got closer. It shows in the win-loss column.”

The section title is the second straight for the Colts. Chartiers Valley swept series with Keystone Oaks and South Fayette, both of which qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

“We have been consistent and have remained focused,” Chartiers Valley coach Jim Jaskowski said. “It is hard to get high school kids to play hard every game. That's just baseball. But this team was able to play hard each game and never took a game off.”

The Colts wrapped up the regular season with a 12-0 nonsection win over Bethel Park in four and a half innings last week. Senior Dom Castello pitched three innings and finished with six strikeouts and gave up one hit. Lapiana pitched the final two innings and record three strikeouts with no hits.

Benefiting the Colts in the playoffs will be the presence of the two veteran pitchers. Lapiana is an Akron recruit. Castello, meanwhile, is one of the most versatile players Chartiers Valley has had in recent years – he has played catcher, second base and third base.

“That is the whole thing about playoffs,” Jaskowski said. “Pitching and defense runs the show. There are a lot of score likes 2-1, 1-0 and 3-2. We have two horses and we feel good about either one on the mound.”

Behind the pitchers is a solid defense. Second baseman Brady Gulikowski, shortstop Jake Ritson, and outfielders CJ Beatty, Tanner Garris and Nick Kane have all been consistent.

Younger players such as sophomores Cole Horew and Eddie Flohr have both made an impact.

Jaskowski credited part of his team's success with figuring out where to place each player after graduating six seniors from last season's team.

“We found where all the players need to go,” Jaskowski said. “We put the puzzle pieces together and found the right spot for all the guys.

“And these guys are practicing hard. They worked hard and have gotten better through practice.”

With the regular season wrapped up, Chartiers Valley is now refocusing on the postseason. This will be the fourth straight year the Colts have reached the playoffs.

“The section title was our first goal, and we achieved that without losing a game,” Castello said. “The seniors and juniors have been to the playoffs so much that we know it is a different process. We know the pitching is different. We have to take things one game at a time to reach the WPIAL championship game.”

But before they can hope for a chance of a WPIAL title, the Colts know the hard work they must put in.

“We need to compete every day,” Lapiana said. “The main goal is to compete and win every day.

“If you go out and compete every day, the wins will take care of themselves.”

Chartiers Valley entered the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs as the No. 2 seed. The Colts played South Park on Monday in the first round. Results were unavailable at press time.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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