Trojans are true 'boys of spring'
There's something about the boys in the California Area School District when spring time and baseball season rolls around.
And that something is magical.
These ‘boys of spring' punched their second WPIAL Class A championship ticket in three years with an impressive 16-5 win over Sewickley Academy in six innings in the semifinals at Washington & Jefferson's Ross Memorial Park Monday.
And if it weren't for a rare hiccup in the third inning, the unbeaten Trojans (19-0) might have finished off Sewickley Academy (10-6) in quicker fashion.
Year-in and year-out, there are few teams – if any – in Class A who are better than the Trojans.
And this year, it looks like California Area is a team on a mission to capture a title for first-year coach Nick Damico.
Every season, California is a force in baseball, for sure. But what has made this team so perfect going into the championship game?
“We all play together and we hit the ball,” said senior catcher Jake Columbus, who had five hits by himself against SA. “We pride ourselves in our hitting.”
Senior outfielder Aaron Previsky echoed his teammate's sentiments, saying, “We are a hitting team and it seems like when we all hit together, we are always on the winning side. We just hit the ball very, very well today.”
Josh Luko, a four-year starter, said the key has been hard work.
“Everybody does their share, even in practice,” Luko said. “And it's just been paying off. We've been playing together for years now and the seniors want this really bad.”
When you consider that California has outscored the opposition 197-37 this season, it is obvious that the Trojans can hit the ball.
But what makes these boys of spring even more dangerous is the discipline they show at the plate.
I mean, the Trojans aren't just up there free-swinging. While they would prefer to swat baseballs to open spaces and run, they aren't afraid to draw walks either.
The team has drawn more than 100 free passes this season and in Monday's win, a big 7-run second inning tells you a lot about this team.
In the onslaught, Cal had just three hits, but also took advantage of three walks, a hit batter and an error.
“We've got a disciplined bunch of players at the plate,” said Damico. “We try to swing at balls from black to black. We don't like to swing at anything off the plate.”
And so the boys of spring are back for yet another shot at WPIAL gold.
“It is a great feeling,” Damico said of reaching the title game. “We had a lot back coming into the season and we just tried to polish it a bit. They've listened to us and bought into the system. We've got some great baseball players.”
“There's nothing better than playing over there,” said Columbus, pointing over his shoulder to Consol Energy Park in the background. Consol Energy Park is the site of the WPIAL title games.
The California players and their fans wear shirts that proclaim the Trojans to be the “Greatest Show on Dirt.”
But after what they did on the artificial surface at Ross Memorial Park Monday, you could probably add “turf” to that slogan as well.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.