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Three-sport athlete Ryan Mincher key to success for Shaler baseball

| Friday, April 6, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Shaler shortstop Ryan Mincher reaches to tag Central Catholic's Garette Vrbanic during their game at Matulevic Field in Shaler. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Ryan Mincher likes to be the guy.

The Shaler senior was the quarterback in the fall, the point guard in the winter, and now, Mincher is the shortstop — the critical infield position where he may be the most natural fit. Certainly, it's the role he'll be spending the most time with going forward.

A Penn recruit, the multitalented Mincher is coming off a breakout junior season in which he batted a program-record .516 with 20 RBI. And as valuable as his versatility makes him, it's the intangibles gleaned from his other athletic endeavors that make Mincher stand out.

“I just feel baseball is a leadership sport more than anything else,” he said. “You only get a few at-bats to make a difference. In football or basketball, you have a lot of chances, so if you miss one early, you have time to make it up.

“In baseball, when you get those chances, you've got to take advantage of them. That ultimately determines your success.”

Through the first few weeks of the season, Mincher already has seen both sides of the success-failure coin.

He provided the game-winning RBI in a 6-5 win March 26 against Central Catholic. On Saturday, though, with his team trailing Class AAAA No. 2 Bethel Park in the top of seventh, 3-2, Mincher struck out with a man on third. The Class AAAA No. 4 Titans (4-2, 0-1 in Section 1) went on to lose for the first time this season.

Mincher moved past it.

“I know more than anyone else that that chance is going to come again,” he said. “You have to take on the pressure in game situations. Even if you don't succeed, it'll definitely help you down the road.”

Such an attitude is expected of the Titans' leader, especially during a season in which the Titans believe they can make some noise in one of the WPIAL's toughest sections — reigning WPIAL champ Seneca Valley, North Allegheny, Butler and Pine-Richland figure to be among the upper crust.

Still, Titans coach Brian Junker thinks the pieces are in place for his fourth year with the Titans to potentially be the best.

“This is the first year that I know we have a 1-2-3 punch at pitcher, and we have a possible draftee in Mincher,” he said. “But pitching is everything.”

Experienced seniors Matt Bernick and Tyler Temple are No. 1 and 2 options on the Titans' staff, with classmate Ryan Gallagher expected to see a hefty share of innings.

As vital as pitching will be, another key will be how the Titans rebound from losing 10 graduates from a team that reached the WPIAL playoffs. Of course, one three-sport standout has Junker believing the transition won't be so rough.

“This is the first time I've been around this type of kid, coaching-wise; he's really a throwback,” Junker said of Mincher. “The scary part is he has a lot of fundamentals to focus on. When he gets to focus only on baseball at Penn, he can really go somewhere.”

Dan Stefano is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dstefano@tribweb.com or 412-380-5697.

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