Scotties baseball team continues to make strides toward goals
Southmoreland baseball coach Brian Shipley sat in a dugout at the team's field recently and reflected on a season in which the Scotties won nine games for the second straight year.
That makes 26 victories over the last three years. It hasn't been enough to get the team into the postseason as of yet, but it has been enough to put the team in a positive direction, especially since the three prior years saw the team accumulate just three wins.
“To get nine wins is a tremendous stride for the program,” Shipley said of his 9-11 Scotties. “The last two years have been nine wins and the year before that, my first year, we won eight. The goal is to get 10 every year, which is the (school) record. That was a goal, to get 10 wins and obviously make the playoffs. We lost a bunch of one-run game or we could have had 12-13 wins.”
The playoffs are a tough task for any team. The Scotties task was not made any easier since Section 4-AA in which they resided was mighty tough, highlighted by recently crowned WPIAL champion Steel Valley.
“We were put in a section the last two years that was pretty tough, pretty competitive from top to bottom,” Shipley said. “The playoff term is pushed around a lot. It's easier said than done. It's definitely a goal.”
Throughout the season, the Scotties were competitive against their opponents in the section, which also featured quality programs such as Shady Side Academy, Greensburg Central Catholic and Jeannette.
However, Shipley recalled games in which the defense wasn't there and that usually does not bode well for a baseball team.
“Pitching and defense is the key at any level,” Shipley said. “You can get by just scoring a couple runs a game. If you can pitch well and play solid defense, you're going to win. A lot of times we didn't have all three or we just had one.”
And matters don't figure to get much easier in 2015 as the Scotties will move up to Class AAA.
Preparations for the 2015 season will begin early as Southmoreland has become like many WPIAL schools that plays fall baseball.
“There's close to 80 WPIAL schools playing fall baseball,” Shipley said. “That's what you do now, you play in the fall. It's mainly for the kids who don't play fall sports, but there's other kids that play fall sports that play fall baseball. It keeps you going. You play 25 games. The last two years we've played 25 games in the fall and I think it's helped us.”
Then again, most sports have become year-round endeavors. As well as fall ball there are offseason trips to the batting cages and workouts in the gymnasium starting in January.
“I think as far as preparation we're prepared as well as anybody,” Shipley said. “I'm stressing dedication, commitment, overall attitude, work ethic. I think we've had that the last three years.”
There will be some key ingredients returning to next year's Southmoreland baseball squad, players who were significant contributors in 2014.
“We had some good signs from some of the younger players,” Shipley said.
These included sophomore Russ Ritenour, whom Shipley said carried a batting average of around .600 in section games, and fellow 10th-graders Hunter Schwartz and Doug Leighty. Others included freshmen Kevin Richards and Brandon Lint and juniors Chas King and Michael Baird, whom Shipley will count on to be the ace of his pitching staff.
“He gets the ball, he gives us a chance to win,” Shipley said of the southpaw. “You know he's going the distance. You can rely on him.”
Plus, Shipley said there seems to be a talented group of incoming freshman primed to join the program
“You have to work hard,” Shipley said. “You just can't show up in March. You have to (work on the game) all year long, summer, fall, winter. You've just got to put in some time. If we want to be a top program, that's what we have to do. Everyone's going to have to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team. I'm looking forward to next year.”
Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.