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Area teams making, not making grade

| Saturday, April 12, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A break in the weather this week gave us more than a glimpse of the area's baseball and softball teams, and most of those teams opened some eyes — whether the reasons were positive or negative.

Among the positives were the baseball teams at Charleroi and California.

The Cougars have been very impressive as they have shown a penchant for finding ways to win under coach Luke Mollis, despite having a young team.

One thing that is very promising for Charleroi is a fairly young pitching staff. Mollis has several lively arms to turn to, which was evident this week when the Cougars played three games in as many days. Mollis didn't run out of pitching, even with a fourth game scheduled for Friday.

Charleroi is going with a lineup that features several freshmen and sophomores. That recipe usually leads to inconsistent play in the field and at the plate because of youth, which has been evident.

However, with a 4-3 record, including 3-1 in Section 2 AA, the Cougars clearly show signs of turning the corner from some recent disastrous seasons.

California, meanwhile, has been dominating at 8-0. Other than a hard-fought 7-6 9-inning win over Monessen, the Trojans have been stomping teams under first-year coach Nick Damico.

In its other seven wins, California has outscored the opposition 79-6, including 33-3 in two victories this week.

Unlike Charleroi, California's success is no surprise. The veteran-laden Trojans were among the favorites to win the Class A title this season and their play so far hasn't done anything to sway that opinion.

In softball, two programs showing some signs of hope are Charleroi and Belle Vernon Area.

Charleroi, under first-year coach Trey Tilghman, is 5-2 (3-1 in Section 4 AA). Outside of a two-game hiccup earlier in the week, the Lady Cougars have outscored the opposition 53-12 in their five wins.

It truly is impressive to see the dramatic change in the program in less than one year.

BVA, meanwhile had fallen on some tough times after a dominating 10-year playoff run under coach Tom Rodriguez.

After an uncharacteristic 8-12 season a year ago, the Lady Leps got out of the gate slow this season with an 0-6 start.

However, the team has rebounded to win its last three games, including an impressive 7-1 victory over rival Elizabeth Forward.

It will be interesting to see if BVA can keep the momentum going the rest of the way and sneak back into the playoff picture.

The negatives so far?

Two of the biggest disappointments have to be Monessen in both baseball and softball.

After making the playoffs for the first time in 26 seasons a year ago, Greyhounds baseball coach Bill Matush expected his team to contend in Section 2 A. He had several key returning players from last year's postseason squad.

So far that hasn't happened as Monessen is off to a sluggish 0-2 start in section play and 2-5 overall.

When the Greyhounds put that early-season scare into California, taking a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh before eventually losing in 9 innings, it seemed like the team was going to live up to preseason expectations.

There is still time to right the ship, but the Greyhounds have to get it going and do so quickly.

The Lady Greyhounds, meanwhile, are off to a 1-6 start that has seen the team get outscored 54-8 in its five losses. Its only victory was an 11-10 slugfest against winless California.

A year ago, Monessen went 8-9 and just missed the playoffs. The bulk of that team is back this season.

Although it is early, much more was expected out of the Lady Greyhounds.

And coach Bo Teets has to hope his team gets things turned around Monday against a Frazier team that is in the thick of the race for the section crown.

Seems like a daunting task.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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