A-K Valley baseball notebook: Riverview heading to playoffs for first time since 2015

Thursday, May 13, 2021 | 6:02 PM

For the first time since 2015, the Riverview baseball team is heading to the WPIAL Class A playoffs.

With a record of 8-5 (7-3 Section 3-1A), the Raiders finished second in their section behind Eden Christian. Though his team has won three of its past four games, Riverview coach William Gras is looking for the Raiders to improve as the payoffs near.

“We’re pretty excited about getting the opportunity to play in the playoffs, but we did not have a good week this week,” Gras said. “We didn’t perform the way I expected us to perform in our two games and even in practice last night. I don’t know if the kids are like, ‘Wow, we’ve made the playoffs,’ because it’s new for them, but it’s a big teaching moment for them because it’s one thing for them to make the playoffs but that’s not your ultimate goal.”

Since Gras took over in 2018, he’s been trying to build the program back up. The Raiders made a run to the 2014 WPIAL Class A semifinals and finished fourth after a 9-8 loss to Sewickley Academy. The next season, the Raiders’ most recent playoff appearance, they lost 11-1 to Greensburg Central Catholic in the first round.

The Raiders tallied nine wins in Gras’ first two years at the helm, but they are starting to build their confidence back up this season.

“We set our goals at the beginning of the season to win the section, and if we couldn’t win the section we at least wanted to make the playoffs,” Gras said. “We’ve reached that goal, but winning the WPIAL is another goal of ours. So, we’re not finished. We’re reaching for our goals.”

The Raiders have come up with a few big wins this season: They took down Eden Christian earlier this year and mercy-ruled Sewickley Academy, 16-1, as well. They also beat Leechburg in a 12-inning affair and swept Springdale and St. Joseph.

Playoffs clinched

Heading into Wednesday’s games, nine teams from the A-K Valley had clinched playoff sports. Plum and Fox Chapel will find themselves in the WPIAL Class 5A tournament, and Knoch and Highlands will represent the A-K Valley in 4A.

After just missing out on a Section 3-3A title, Deer Lakes made the playoffs and will be joined by Valley in 3A. Apollo-Ridge made the cut in 2A, and Riverview and Leechburg will play in the 1A tournament.

Homefield advantage

Plum’s new turf baseball field recently was finished after a drawn-out process, and the Mustangs played their first home game May 1.

Two weeks and four home wins later, the Mustangs were crowned Section 2-5A champs on their new field.

Heading into the week, the Mustangs needed to win at least one of two games against Fox Chapel, which stood in second place. The Foxes earned a come-from-behind 5-2 win, but the Mustangs bounced back the next day.

On Tuesday, Justin Giarusso threw six innings of two-hit ball and only gave up one earned run as Caden Norcutt drove in four runs to give the Mustangs a 4-2 win.

Ace of the staff

In a year when pitching is more important than ever, having an ace is important. John Luke Bailey has been that guy for the Vikings.

In 46 1/3 innings of work, the Valley senior has allowed 10 earned runs, struck out 56 and walked 11. He’s gone the distance in five of his seven starts, has only allowed two or more earned runs twice and has thrown at least five innings in all of his appearances.

Bailey’s only hiccup of the season came in his first start of the year against Highlands. It was his shortest outing of the season, and he allowed seven earned runs.

Since then, he’s thrown five complete games and has struck out 47 while producing an ERA of 1.51.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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