Trib Cup: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic loading up on games to prep for postseason
Baseball is truly a game of trial and error. The more repetitions in the batters box or on the mound can go a long way toward a player's improvement.
The Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic baseball team has taken that approach to heart year, making a concerted effort to schedule as many games as it can in the hopes of improving as it comes time for the postseason.
Through Wednesday, Serra Catholic was the only Class A team with more games played than North Catholic (13).
“I think the hitters now are really starting to get comfortable,” Trojans coach John Haggarty said. “They're seeing a lot of pitches, obviously, and I think the middle of the lineup right now is starting to peak at this point in a good way.
“I think baseball's that repetition sport where the more reps they get the better off they're going to be. You can never get enough repetitions, and I think it's really starting to pay off.”
That continued repetition is paying off for the Trojans, as they stand in second place in Section 4-A at 3-1 and 7-5 overall. North Catholic is highlighted as this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature team, and is a key reason why the Trojans are in seventh place in the Class A standings.
At the plate, the Trojans have been led by a trio of hitters in shortstop Jake Matschner (.425), Robert Schad (.345) and freshman Jack Anderson (.340). While still relying on manufacturing runs as in years past, North Catholic has been able to hit the ball over the fence this year, evidenced by Schad and Matschner's two and three home runs, respectively.
“I think we're playing really well right now. … We're hitting for a lot of power this year which is a little different for us,” Haggarty said. “We used to play a lot of small ball.”
While the Trojans entered the season relying on the hitting experience of Matschner and Schad, it's been Anderson's play as a freshman that has provided a boost.
“He's a real up-and-comer … a lot of pop, hits the ball hard. He's batting second, third, fourth, wherever I put him,” Haggarty said. “He's just hitting the ball right now.”
The pitching staff has been paced by another trio of players in hurlers Schad, Nick Tunstall and Nick Nyman. But it's Tunstall who has been the marquee pitcher on the staff.
Throwing a no-hitter earlier this year against Riverview and a two-hitter against Neshannock, the Trojans know that whenever he starts a game, it's one they can win. Even in the team's second game of the season against Greenbrier — Georgia's top ranked Class AAAAA team — the score was within reach when Tunstall exited the contest in the fifth inning.
“You can't say enough about Nick,” Haggarty said. “He's such a gamer, he's such a competitor, always wants the ball, always wants it in a big game situation. … We know when we have him on the mound, all of a sudden we feel about a foot taller.”
“If there is any pressure at all, I kind of welcome it,” Tunstall added. “But the team is usually behind me.”
With the season having now surpassed the halfway point, Tunstall and the Trojans are hoping to use the momentum gained in Augusta, Ga., back in March and carry it over to the playoffs in May in their bid for a third straight postseason appearance.
“Especially for being our second game of the season, I thought we hung in pretty well,” Tunstall said of the Greenbrier game. “I thought it gave us a big boost going into section play and WPIAL play.”
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.