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After 3 losses to start campaign, Bishop Canevin baseball reached WPIAL quarterfinals

| Saturday, June 3, 2017, 12:56 a.m.

Bishop Canevin baseball coach Dale Checketts said this season was a bit like a roller coaster — there were a lot of ups, and there were some downs.

But overall, he was pleased with how his team performed. The Crusaders finished 10-7 and reached the WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinals.

“Anytime you get to the WPIAL playoffs to play for a championship, that is a pretty good year,” the 10th-year coach said. “We did have a team with some younger players we relied on. Getting to the postseason to experience that atmosphere should be a good thing for them.”

The season started out dicey with three straight losses — West Allegheny, 11-0, on March 27; Serra Catholic, 6-0, on April 5; and Brentwood, 11-1, on April 10. But in addition to the erratic early schedule, the Crusaders were stacked up against three of its toughest opponents — the Indians finished third in Class 5A while the Eagles finished in third in Class 2A. The Spartans went 14-3.

The team rebounded from the slump and went 9-3 to close out the regular season, reaching the playoffs for the sixth straight season.

“We didn't want the first three games to stop us from progressing,” Checketts said. “Those were three good teams with experienced players. Our kids really came together after that.”

The Crusaders finished tied for third in Section 3-2A and topped Carmichaels, 5-4, in the opening round of the postseason.

Bishop Canevin's season came to an end with an 8-1 loss to OLSH in the WPIAL playoffs May 22. It was a game that was hard for the Crusaders to get up for as a player's father passed away a day before.

“That is tough for kids to deal with,” Checketts said. “It really cast a dark cloud over the game.”

Checketts credited part of the team's late-season success to players growing up throughout the year. With a number of sophomores filling key positions, Bishop Canevin got better the more it saw the field.

Youth had a major impact on the pitching staff. Senior Tyler Lampus had a strong season, going 3-2 with a 1.80 ERA and 26 strikeouts. But from there, sophomore arms saw considerable innings on the mound. Josh Gmys led the team with a 5-2 record. He also finished with a 2.76 ERA and 31 strikeouts. Ryan Eisenbeis went 1-1 with a 2.52 ERA and 15 strikeouts.

Aidan Logan, Brian DeSchon, Michael Aches and Ted Maida all contributed to the bullpen.

“As a coach, I had to remind myself that these guys were so young,” Checketts said. “They will make mistakes. But the sophomore pitchers all did a nice job. Each one made strides for us.”

The defense was sound thanks to the play of a battle-tested group of seniors, including outfielders Mitch King and Kellan Gustine, as well as catcher Rocky Rauterkus. Junior Matt Colantonio helped solidify the defense in his second season at second base.

At the plate, Gustine led the team with a .438 average, with 19 runs and five RBIs. Aches finished with a .409 average with eight RBIs and 10 runs. Three others players batted over .300 — Lampus (.389), DeSchon (.318) and Rauterkus (.318).

“It was up and down at the plate,” Checketts said. “We had a few guys who were really consistent; Kellen and Mike were both big contributors for us. So was Tyler. But sometimes we had guys slumping or something wasn't clicking.”

Gustine led the team in stolen bases with 18. DeSchon finished with 12.

Moving forward, the Crusaders should be able to build on the experience some of the underclassmen gained this season. Six sophomores saw action, and a few juniors and a freshman who also got playing time.

“We had a lot of guys learning on the job this season,” Checketts said. “They now have two playoff games under their belt. They have experienced success and adversity in the postseason.”

While Bishop Canevin has a foundation for the future, the team will need to replace the leadership of an eight-player senior class, which went to the postseason all four years and won a total of 38 games.

“It is bittersweet,” Checketts said. “This group has been great leaders on and off the field. They have been to and won multiple playoff games. I know I will have good memories of this group. And I hope they made some good memories, too.”

Nathan Smith is a freelance writer.

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