After turning around season, CCAC-Boyce baseball reached Region XX finals
When members of the CCAC-Boyce baseball team look back on the 2019 season, they are quick to notice a definite shift in fortunes.
After a 4-10 start had the squad looking for answers, the team righted the ship and embarked on a winning streak that took them to a Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference title and the doorstep of a Region XX championship.
Despite falling one win short of the regional crown, players and coaches point to the many positives from the two months of games.
“We had a team meeting and talked about what we needed to do, and it really turned the season around,” Gateway graduate and first-year Boyce pitcher Kris Dick said. “Everybody became like family, and we all bought into what the coaches wanted from us. It was like a new season. We didn’t wait for anyone to keep up with us. We played our game.”
Boyce won 16 games in a row at one point and was victorious in 17 of its final 19 contests.
“I think it came down to us getting out of our own way and putting the egos on the back burner,” coach Austin Long said.
“Once everyone understood their roles and what it was going to take from their roles to win ballgames, we really started to take off. We talked about playing for the guy next to you and not for yourself.”
The winning streak was snapped by Prince George’s Community College in the first game of the best-of-three regional final series.
However, Boyce bounced back with an 8-6 win to send it to a winner-take-all final game.
In that game, Boyce led 2-0 until Prince George’s scored twice in the ninth to send it to extra innings before winning it 5-2 with three runs in the 13th.
“It was a great learning experience for the guys,” Long said. “It was heartbreaking to be that close, but the guys played a great game.”
Dick started the game and threw 126 pitches over nine innings. He struck out nine.
With runners on second and third with two outs, Prince George’s sophomore Clark Reese tied the game with a two-run single.
“It was just a battle the whole way through,” Dick said. “We had them down to the last strike, and I threw a bad pitch. It haunts me every day, and it will haunt me to the next season.”
“Kris was a bulldog for us all season,” Long said. “He was our leader in innings pitched, strikeouts and ERA. He was willing to do whatever you asked of him. He would take the ball on short rest. He embraced that. He threw nine innings of two-run baseball (against Prince George’s), and that’s phenomenal at any level.”
Despite the turn of events in that game, Dick, an all-conference selection this season, said he is looking at the bigger picture of success his team had this season.
“We have that taste, and we’re hungry for more,” he said. “I feel the kids coming in will follow the lead of the returning players.”
While Dick and others return next season, eight players from this year’s squad will move on to NCAA Division II or III or NAIA schools to continue their education and baseball pursuits.
Included in that group is Penn Hills grad Anthony Tucci, who will join the baseball program at Clarion.
“He was a huge part of this season and helped put this program on the map,” Long said. “We wish him the best of luck at Clarion.”
Ian Logue, a sophomore pitcher from Thomas Jefferson, has earned a scholarship to play at IUP next season.
“It’s what we strive for,” Dick said. “I am really happy for all the guys. They all worked hard for it all winter and spring, and they deserve it.”
Optimism within Boyce baseball includes the potential of the incoming freshmen, such as WPIAL products Tanner Schmitt (North Hills), Trevor O’Donnell (Seton LaSalle) and Evan Weissart (Keystone Oaks).
O’Donnell and Seton LaSalle were still alive in the PIAA 2A playoffs as of deadline for this week’s edition. They were to take on Serra Catholic on Monday in the state semifinals.
“The urgency and the hunger are there to win the regional tournament and get to districts next year,” Long said. “We’ve been able to establish a winning culture here, and I feel that’s only going to continue to grow.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-856-7400 x8632, [email protected] or via Twitter .