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Baseball

Sewickley Academy improving for home stretch

| Monday, May 9, 2016, 1:24 p.m.
Sewickley Academy's Drew Zbihley winds up for a pitch during a rainy game against Kiski School on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Drew Zbihley winds up for a pitch during a rainy game against Kiski School on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.
Kiski School's Zachary Muster hustles back to second base as Sewickley Academy's Joey Straka tried to pick him off during a game Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Kiski School's Zachary Muster hustles back to second base as Sewickley Academy's Joey Straka tried to pick him off during a game Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.
Sewickley Academy's Martin Tancer catches the ball during a game against Kiski School on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Martin Tancer catches the ball during a game against Kiski School on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.
Kiski School's Zachary Muster tries to pick off Sewickley Academy's Ryan Brown during a game Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Kiski School's Zachary Muster tries to pick off Sewickley Academy's Ryan Brown during a game Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.
Sewickley Academy's Ryan Brown tries to beat a throw to first base during a game against Kiski School on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Ryan Brown tries to beat a throw to first base during a game against Kiski School on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.

The Sewickley Academy baseball team has clinched a WPIAL playoff berth, but coach Andrew Heck is still waiting for the Panthers to play a complete game.

Heading into the week, Sewickley Academy posted a 6-4 record overall and 6-3 in Section 1-A.

Heck said the Panthers struggled to get consistent pitching performances from their starters, and defensive fundamentals kept them from reaching their maximum potential.

“It was frustrating for me as a coach early on, but since then we cleaned up the errors. But we still walk a lot of guys,” he said. “That's something that we kind of understand and will have to build on down the stretch.”

The Panthers have worked to develop sophomore Joey Straka and freshman John Del Vecchio to potentially be the aces for the program in years to come.

Seniors Drew Zbihley and Stephen Klemash aren't pitchers by trade, but they've given valuable innings to keep the season intact.

“We knew that would be hard putting together a staff with some of the guys we've lost in the past, but we're developing nicely,” Heck said. “As we've cleaned up some errors in the field, the pitchers are understanding you don't have to strike every guy out, but you can rely on the guys behind you to get outs.”

Junior Derek Littlefield has had a stellar year at the plate, batting .545 with 14 RBIs and 20 runs scored. Senior shortstop John Nagel has 16 RBIs to go along with a .417 batting average.

The Panthers' outfield is led by senior Martin Tancer and juniors Tommy Lasorda and Ryan Brown. Heck said the outfield trio may be one of the best in the WPIAL.

“Any ball that can get caught when it gets hit out there will get caught,” he said. “Martin and Tommy have worked hard getting reads off the bat. If a ball goes in the air, those two are able to run it down.”

With the playoffs just days away, Heck said he expects the improved play to continue. While it's easy to point out the flaws in a team, he's still happy with the performance and perseverance he's seen all season.

“To be where we are record-wise, it's great for us,” Heck said. “You can't take away what some guys have done on the mound, in the field and with the bat.

“A lot of the struggles we have come with inexperience, but with that you're able to learn and hopefully apply that down the line, especially in the playoffs.”

The WPIAL baseball playoff pairings will be released Friday, and the playoffs are expected to begin Monday.

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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