A-K Valley baseball teams earn key wins to rebound from slow starts

Tuesday, April 16, 2019 | 5:50 PM

A seemingly comfortable six-run lead shrank to one for Valley in a handful of minutes during a Section 1-3A baseball game last week at East Allegheny.

The host Wildcats had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, as the pressure mounted on Valley.

Sophomore Shane Demharter made sure the razor-thin win came through, getting a strikeout for the final out to secure an early-season victory and allow the Vikings to breathe a sigh of relief.

“It’s a character, confidence builder that we can get out of a jam late in the game,” coach Jim Basilone said the next day. “That’s basically what we’ve been trying to do here is when we get in a jam, have the mental toughness to get out of it.”

Whether a single victory in early April allows Valley (2-6, 2-2) to reach the WPIAL playoffs won’t become clear until early May. But Basilone hopes it proves pivotal for a young team with designs on a third consecutive postseason trip.

The early weeks of WPIAL baseball season contain some important swing games, and that is especially true in section play. With playoff spots limited to four teams from each section, each win gives a team that much more of a leg up and each loss can prove costly.

“These guys really have to learn how to win, and we haven’t learned that yet,” said Leechburg coach Bob Oberdorf said after a 10-0 win over Springdale allowed the Blue Devils (2-5, 1-2) to find the Section 3-A win column last week. “It seems like every time that we get into a situation, something jumps up to bite us, and we make a mistake here and there and give up a couple runs.

“We just need to learn how to win, and (Springdale) was a good situation, and we’ll have to see if we can build on that.”

Leechburg’s win over Springdale came right after a late lead slipped away in a 4-2 loss to Greensburg Central Catholic. The Blue Devils are seeking a second straight playoff trip and didn’t want to dig too deep a hole.

“It’s important to come out and get them because we have some playoff hopes in mind,” senior John Sorisio said.

“Last year, I was a junior, so that was my first playoff run with this team. It was a good time. It was fun winning because we had some struggles in the past. But, we’ve just got to carry on the momentum and get in the playoffs again.”

Several Alle-Kiski Valley teams had similar wins last week. Highlands (5-4, 1-3 Section 1-4A) rebounded from a one-run loss to Derry with an 8-6 win over a ranked Yough team.

Kiski Area (5-4, 2-2 Section 1-5A) registered back-to-back wins over Woodland Hills and Penn Hills, storming back to win the second.

Plum (4-6, 1-2 Section 2-6A) toppled previously undefeated Penn-Trafford and ended a three-game losing streak in one fell swoop.

St. Joseph (3-3, 1-1 Section 3-A) grabbed an important early win over Springdale as it seeks its first playoff trip since 2000.

“It takes a big weight off of not only my shoulders but the players, as well,” Highlands coach Jeff Campbell said. “They can go out and relax a little bit. They know they can compete now.

“A lot of things we’ve been stressing is getting these kids to realize a lot of baseball is mental, and you’ve got to think positive and have confidence in yourself. I think these last few wins are building some confidence in these guys.”

Basilone said Valley approaches every game with the sense that it’s both the first game and last game of the season, trying to keep previous results out of mind.

That, he believes, can help a team built around freshmen and sophomores keep pushing toward the end of the year and potentially another playoff berth.

“We are seeing a lot of progress,” he said. “But it’s not going to be all together, all at one time. So we’re jumping on each rock at a time across the creek. And we’re going to get to the other side here, soon I hope, sooner rather than later.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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