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Alle-Kiski Valley high school notebook: Field changes not slowing down Riverview baseball

| Friday, April 4, 2014, 8:24 p.m.
© Dan Speicher
Riverview pitcher Nick DiBucci winds up against East Allegheny on Friday, March 21, 2014, at Riverside Park in Oakmont.

Defensive shifts are becoming a trendy thing to do in baseball, the old-but-new concept trickling down from the big leagues.

But a home-field shift? Now that's a true pull.

Riverview's home diamond was altered to accommodate a dek hockey rink at Riverside Park in Oakmont. Home plate is where first base used to be, and the squeeze play is on with a softball field and track nearby.

The Raiders still are getting accustomed to the different perspective, but their winning tradition under coach Rich Griser remains unchanged.

Perhaps what's most impressive about Riverview so far is that it's actually played five games among the muck of the unyielding early-season spring sports climate. But a 5-0 record is nice company.

The Raiders are ranked No. 5 in WPIAL Class A by Trib Total Media and No. 16 in the state by Prep Baseball Report.

Riverview started 6-0 last season for its best start under Griser, who is 157-99-2 in 13-plus seasons as coach.

This year's team, though, is targeting to beat that mark and has more goals than the dek hockey rink.

“We have a lot of leadership and a lot of quality players back,” said Griser, 64, who has led the Raiders to 10 WPIAL playoff trips and four section titles, including 2013 when they finished 15-3 (7-1 in Section 4-A).

“We have a solid, well-rounded team with more pitching depth than we've ever had. And six of our top eight hitters are back.”

So much for losing star pitcher Anthony Malky, now at Akron. Replacing him, Griser said, is a matter of building strength in numbers.

Seniors Nick DiBucci and Dom Conte were a combined 9-0 on the mound last season (DiBucci was 5-0), and still have not lost. Conte is 3-0 and DiBucci 2-0.

Always one to hone pitchers who don't wander far from the strike zone, Griser has plenty of arms.

And the often-seen attention to one star player — Griser's had three players drafted — is stepping aside for a more wide-spread team concept that appears to be taking shape.

“We don't have that flame-thrower, but we have solid pitching that can go seven deep if needed,” Griser said.

The return of senior pitcher/infielder Zach Hanus also has helped. The No. 5 hitter missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.

Add slugger Jake Paradise and outfielder Jason Anthony — two of seven seniors and five team captains who won't soon forget a 6-4 loss to California in the WPIAL quarterfinals — and the Raiders have quiet-good experience.

“And all our guys are hard workers,” said Griser, who has 36 years of coaching under his cap. “We have five captains, and it's rare to have that many, but they all belong there.”

Dual threat

Burrell senior soccer standout Sam Shepherd will get more college assistance than what her Division I scholarship to Virginia Military Institute will bring. In a rare occurrence, she's also qualified for an additional three-year U.S. Army ROTC scholarship. She plans to study chemistry.

Shepherd was Burrell's top defensive player last season and was an All-Section 2-AA selection.

Tipton offered

Tre Tipton on Thursday received what is expected to be the first of many Division I football opportunities when Duquesne offered a scholarship. The Apollo-Ridge junior (6-1, 170) was an all-state selection as a defensive back and also stood out at wide receiver.

He caught 44 passes for 697 yards and 14 touchdowns and had five interceptions last fall.

Duquesne recruited him as an athlete. Tipton said he has also heard from Bowling Green and Massachusetts.

On track

The first larger-scale track and field meet will be Saturday at West Mifflin with the Tri-State Track Coaches Association Championships. The event, which often features some of the WPIAL's top athletes, starts at 9 a.m.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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