WPIAL Alum Q&A – Tyler Falk
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 | 1:10 AM
Riverside has a baseball heritage that is nearly unparalleled in the WPIAL. The Panthers have captured an array of championships and produced even more standout players. Tyler Falk is among those standouts who has not only won multiple titles at Riverside, but is now excelling at the college level at Clarion University. He’s this week’s feature for the WPIAL Alum Q&A.
Falk was a two-sport athlete at Riverside, as he was a three-year letterwinner in both baseball and basketball. He truly excelled on the diamond, though, as he contributed to a pair of record-setting campaigns.
In 2011, Falk became a staple of the lineup as a sophomore, and hit .368 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. Riverside went 20-5, including playoff victories against Freedom, Deer Lakes and Mohawk to reach the WPIAL Class AA Championship. In that affair, the Panthers edged Waynesburg Central, 2-1, to claim district gold. The Panthers then turned their sights to the state postseason, in which they bested Karns City, Saegertown and Martinsburg Central to reach the PIAA title game. In that affair, the Panthers knocked off Salisbury Township 5-2 at Penn State University to win the state crown.
The following campaign, Falk again played in every contest for Riverside, and posted even better numbers. He compiled a batting average of .400, including four homers and 30 RBIs. The team again enjoyed incredible success, posting a mark of 22-6. The Panthers defeated Greensburg Central Catholic, Deer Lakes and Shady Side Academy in the playoffs, but fell to Ellwood City in the WPIAL title game. Riverside rebounded in the state postseason, though, defeating Brookville, South Fayette and North Star to return to Penn State. In the title game, the Panthers edged Pine Grove 5-4, with Falk providing two hits and a run batted in.
Falk’s senior season yielded incredible individual success, as he hit .508 with three home runs and 27 RBIs. The team failed to meet the success of previous years, though, as the Panthers went 15-4 but lost in the first round of the playoffs to Shady Side Academy.
Following his graduation, Falk joined the baseball team at Clarion University, and he paid immediate dividends for the Golden Eagles. As a freshman first baseman, Falk started all 38 games, and hit a team-leading .363 with 18 RBIs. He also pitched in two games, giving up a pair of runs while not registering a decision. Clairon struggled collectively, though, as the team had a record of just 8-30.
In 2015, Falk rewrote the record books for Clarion, as he hit .378 and blasted seven home runs, which tied the school record for a season. Moreover, he boasted a monstrous slugging percentage of .605, and drove in 31 runs. The Golden Eagles again sputtered, though, with a mark of 8-27.
Last season, Falk batted .374 over 42 games, and compiled two homers and 30 RBIs. Clarion reached double-digits in wins, but still struggled at 10-32.
For his senior season in 2017, Falk is putting together another stellar campaign, as he’s hitting .380, by far the best mark on the squad. He’s also scored 24 runs and picked up 10 RBIs. Clarion has already matched last season’s win total, at 10-25, with two weeks still remaining.
Tyler took time away from the diamond to answer questions about his ability to hit for average, his legendary high school baseball coach, and his greatest life achievement.
Q: You batted over .360 in each of your first three seasons, and you’ve increased your average to nearly .400 this season. What is the key to hitting at such a high level?
A: Hitting in college baseball is definitely no easy task, and is highly enjoyable to be in competition with a skilled pitcher every at-bat. The qualities that give me an edge over the pitchers is my mental toughness, competitive nature, and understanding of the game. The mental side of baseball can often be overlooked, but it is the key to my success
Q: As a sophomore, how were you able to hit a record-tying number of home runs, and do you consider yourself a power hitter?
A: Despite tying the school record for home runs, I actually do not consider myself a home run hitter. I try to hit hard line drives, rather than try to hit the ball out of the ballpark – that is not the right approach to have.
Q: In which areas have you improved the most during your college baseball career?
A: I have improved with every single facet of my baseball game. Defensively and base running are the areas I feel I have noticeably improved. Also, I just simply understand baseball better than what I could have ever imagined in high school, and that is a noticeable difference in itself.
Q: What are some underappreciated aspects of playing first base?
A: One of the underappreciated aspects of playing first base is covering the widest range for throws and providing my fielders the largest window for throws. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if you can reach high enough to catch the throw while remaining on the base. Another aspect of first base that can be difficult is judging whether to sit back or attack a throw in the dirt. These little things are not appreciated very often.
Q: What has been your most memorable moment thus far at Clarion?
A: My most memorable moment at Clarion so far would have to be a walkoff win we had against Lockhaven last season. I believe we were down four or five runs in the seventh, and a leadoff home run by Mitch Holmberg and a walkoff grand slam by Josh Ponsoll gave us enough runs for the win.
Q: Your team has struggled the past three seasons. What are the expectations this year?
A: Expectations for this year are to make it to Pullman Park and participate in the PSAC playoffs. We have some work to do in order to do so.
Q: Why did you decide to attend Clarion?
A: I decided to attend Clarion because of the nationally accredited business program, an opportunity for playing time my freshman year, and the opportunity to play in one of the best Division II conferences in the nation.
Q: What is your major, and ideal future profession?
A: My major is finance with concentrations in corporate and personal finance. My ideal profession is to be a Major League Baseball player, but I will likely be working as a personal financial advisor and it is a great fit for my skill set.
Q: You played for a legendary coach, Dan Oliastro, at Riverside. How did you benefit from his experience?
A: Coach Oliastro was a great coach, but an even better person. Just being around him taught everyone associated with him how to be a winner. From the time my teammates and I were growing up on the youth baseball fields, it was an expectation to be a successful high school team and carry on the tradition that Coach Oliastro has established at Riverside High School. I am very grateful to have learned and played for him and Coach Marnicio in high school. They both will always deflect the attention to their players, but they are the ones that deserve the credit.
Q: You won multiple titles with the Panthers. Which moment was the most enjoyable for you?
A: Winning our two state championships is something that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. The first one was almost unexpected because the team struggled mightily the year before. It was great to come together as a team and perform how we knew we could. The second championship was also very special because it was my junior year of high school and it was with the guys that I played with my whole life and may have been even sweeter than the first because that was our goal for the entire year.
Q: Do you still keep in touch with any of your former teammates, either from baseball or basketball?
A: I try to keep in touch with my former teammates as much as possible. They have supported me by coming out and watching my games when I play at Slippery Rock or wherever they go to school at. I stay in touch with my best friend Dylan Jones especially, and we talk frequently. This year, he is having an incredible season, and I am rooting for him as he is leading the entire Division II in doubles this season so far.
Q: If you could have one at-bat against any MLB pitcher, who would you face?
A: If I could have one at-bat against any pitcher in the MLB, it would be Aroldis Chapman. I would love to see what a 104 mph fastball looks like and challenge myself to see if I could hit it.
Q: What is your favorite snack or dessert?
A: My favorite dessert would have to be ice cream. It is very tough to turn down when offered to you.
Q: Who is your celebrity crush?
A: I don’t necessarily have one particular celebrity crush, but Jennifer Aniston or Eva Mendes stick out to me.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment in life to this point?
A: My greatest accomplishment in life would probably being recognized as an Academic All-American last season. I feel that it is the ultimate recognition for a student athlete because it combines your academic and athletic performance into one award. I was always taught to be excel in both areas, not just one, and I am proud to have achieved this.
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