North Allegheny baseball thrived on defense
When it comes to making flashy defensive plays, North Allegheny baseball coach Andrew Heck doesn't disapprove. But when it comes to trying a glove flip or sprawling out to make a catch, he let the Tigers know they'd better have worked on it in practice first.
Turning North Allegheny into one of the best defensive units in the district was Heck's goal. That adherence to defensive discipline helped the Tigers reach the WPIAL Class 6A title game before bowing out of the PIAA playoffs with a 1-0 loss to State College on June 6.
The defense finished the season with a .933 fielding percentage and committed 37 errors in 553 opportunities. North Allegheny (17-8) also had 29 outfield assists and turned 13 double plays.
Heck felt his kids prepared well for the season.
“It's little things, paying attention to details in the offseason,” he said. “You can take plenty of ground balls, coaches can hit you ground balls or parents can hit ground balls, but you have to work on it the correct way and challenge ourselves to get better.”
Juliano Capretta and Alec Whipkey finished the season with perfect fielding percentages, not committing an error in 48 and 53 opportunities, respectively. Fourteen players had a percentage of .900 or better.
“We had some highlight-reel plays as well,” Heck said. “It's continuing to get better at those plays but making sure you are consistent with all the routine plays as well. … It's important to make the routine plays. It comes down to hard work and paying attention to the details in the offseason.”
The pitching staff was also a big contributor in helping the defense. The staff finished with a 1.76 ERA. Senior pitcher Danny Caropresi, who allowed one run against State College, led North Allegheny with a 0.60 ERA and was 4-2.
Fellow senior Bobby Brown led the team with five wins, and sophomore Anthony Hattrup (4-1) tied for second.
“I would be totally off-base if I didn't say what got us to where we got this year was because of our pitching, hands down,” Heck said. “We lost a lot of pitching from the year before.”
Following two consecutive first-round exits, North Allegheny was able to improve. Heck hopes the defensive discipline will continue paying dividends next year.
“I was happy with the way we performed,” Heck said. “The end of the season left a bitter taste in our mouths, which is good, in my opinion. We have some unfinished business we need to take care of. Once you step back and look at the season as a whole, I think we had a successful year.”
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.