Seneca Valley riding RHP Coward to top
The Seneca Valley Raiders' quest for an unprecedented three-peat of the WPIAL championship could rest with pitcher Connor Coward.
A perfect regular season on the hill, Coward likely will be the guy to get the starting nod in tough spots come playoff time.
Seneca Valley entered the week ranked as Trib Total Media's top team in Class AAAA.
“Going 5-0 during the regular season was definitely a surprise for me,” Coward said.
“It started with a nonsection game against Shaler, then I threw well in a win against North Allegheny.”
The key to his success, and subsequently that of the Raiders, was that Coward's pitches were hitting the locations he intended on a regular basis.
He has figured out the right time to throw his fastball versus his curve, and with his changeup looking good as well, Coward has been a difficult pitcher to hit.
“When I started out, I was not getting the velocity on my fastball the way I wanted to, so I relied on my curveball early,” Coward said.
“In the last game against NA and Fox Chapel, my velocity was in the mid-to-low 80s. I try to get ahead in the count and work from there.”
Seneca Valley coach Eric Semega is pleased with the work of his junior right-handed starter, and he couldn't say enough about how far he has come this year.
“He hits his spots and has become our go-to guy,” Semega said.
Since baseball is not a perfect world, Coward does get behind at times. So, in those situations, he knows he can count on Semega to call the right pitch for the situation.
Semega shows confidence in his players, and they respond, according to Coward.
“Coach Semega likes to change things up,” Coward said. “I can just relax and throw strikes.”
Coward also credits catchers Brad Gresock and Gianpaul Gonzalez-Cortes with being smart and athletic players who help his confidence.
Gresock, a senior, has been around and knows what it takes to win games.
Gonzalez-Cortes is new to the team this year, but he and Coward have bonded almost instantly on and off the field.
“JP and I are good friends, I have a special trust in him on anything,” Coward said.
“I know he (and Brad, too) will make a block and both can make a throwout at second. They help in those tough situations.”
Another thing that helps in tough situations is a touch of swagger, something the two-time defending WPIAL champions definitely have.
“We know we have a chance to do something great, but to do that, you have to know you are good,” Coward said.
“You have to know that when you step in the batter's box … in section, nonsection and now playoffs, you have to be confident, not go in cocky.”
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.