Coach Basciano instills sense of togetherness that helps Latrobe baseball reach WPIAL final

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Monday, May 29, 2023 | 4:51 PM


Maybe it was his late father Norm’s influence, the way he was raised in the game that made him this way.

Or perhaps he has planted and cultivated his own, personal culture over his two decades as Latrobe’s baseball coach.

Whatever the case, Matt Basciano has another winner on his hands. And he makes sure his players know there is no “I” in Latrobe.

The fifth-seeded Wildcats (17-6) will play No. 14 Hopewell (11-11) when a couple of bracket-busters get together at 4 p.m. Tuesday for the WPIAL Class 4A championship at Wild Things Park in Washington.

Like the start of the playoffs, Latrobe believes it can win it all, even now that the pressure shifts its way as the favorite against the underdog Vikings.

“It’s all about mindset here. We believe in ourselves,” Latrobe sophomore outfielder Eli Boring said. “We are all really close. This has been a crazy run we’re on.”

While many teams say they have chemistry and the players all get along like they’re reading it from a company handbook, Latrobe seems to mean it, genuinely and with conviction.

The program is hard-wired with allegiance from a positive-minded coach and staff, to a common goal, to one another.

How else could a team take road trips to Ohio and Altoona and not want to come home?

How else would a team upset the No. 1 seed, Montour, with such confidence and inherent belonging?

Junior Riley Smith, a pitcher and infielder, said players form a bond as soon as they join the program. It is a trait passed down by Basciano’s former players and coaches.

Just listen to the vocal noise coming from the dugout during games. It’s not all rehearsed cheerleading. It’s meaningful support.

“We all just love being around each other,” Smith said. “We have team dinners, and we all joke around and have fun. Everywhere you look, it’s team, team, team. It’s on posters. Coach Bas preaches it all the time.”

Emboldened by that chemistry, Latrobe is a win away from its second WPIAL title. Basciano was blessed with a talent-rich group in 2017 when the Wildcats won WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A championships. But that group also formed a unique bond.

Like former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson once said, “There’s no ‘I’ in team, but there’s an ‘I’ in win.”

“There are some similarities,” Basciano said. “We preach team. It’s what we do here. Team above all else. Team over personal achievements. The kids have bought into it.”

Latrobe first-year assistant Bill Wisniewski, the former Greensburg Salem coach, has heard about Latrobe’s unique union, but he is seeing it firsthand as the team bounces through the playoffs.

“He has them believing in each other, and that can go a long way,” Wisniewski said. “He sets the culture, and the kids buy in. Nothing seems too big for them.”

Even with many new pieces to the puzzle at the start of the year, the Wildcats believed they could make it all work. Basciano, in his untroubled and benevolent way, positioned players this way and that, like a photographer setting up a family photo.

“Logan Bradish had three innings pitched coming in, so he has the most experience on the mound,” Basciano said. “New catcher, new regular second baseman, new shortstop, new third baseman, new right fielder. As the season went on, our guys figured it out. Whatever it takes.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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