Drop in classification could benefit youthful Yough baseball team

Friday, April 2, 2021 | 6:25 PM

Yough opened the 2021 baseball season with consecutive losses to Upper St. Clair and Mt. Pleasant.

But sixth-year coach Craig Spisak isn’t too concerned. He saw a lot of good things from a team that returns two starters from a 2019 WPIAL semifinalist.

Center fielder/pitcher Vinny Martin and shortstop/pitcher Sean Royer are the only players who saw varsity action on a team that finished 14-7 overall and 10-2 in Section 1-4A. The Cougars reached the WPIAL semifinals before losing to Beaver and their third-place game to New Castle.

Yough was looking forward to another good season in 2020 with seven starters returning until the coronavirus halted spring sports.

Martin didn’t see any action on the hill as a sophomore, but he will see plenty this spring if he recovers from a leg issue. Royer pitched in relief two years ago.

Spisak is counting on his seniors — Martin, Royer, first baseman Ryan Lubovinsky and second baseman Logan Cosharek — to become leaders.

“Over the years, the seniors have stepped up,” Spisak said. “Right now, they’re doing a good job. Our best players are usually our hardest workers.”

Martin has committed to play baseball at Penn State Greater Allegheny, and Royer is committed to Waynesburg.

While the past high school season was wiped out, Yough’s American Legion team had a successful run, finishing third in the regional tournament and sending 2020 seniors Cody Ulander (Westminster), Nate Wilkins (Westminster), Ray Halahurich (Westmoreland County Community College), Caden Kastronis (WCCC), Cam Pritts (WCCC), Mike Bell (Waynesburg) and Steve Manion (St. Vincent) out in style.

Spisak was able to get valuable playing experience in the summer and fall for their replacements.

Juniors Allen Novacek (pitcher/catcher), Taylor Odelli (third base), Christian Park (outfielder/pitcher) and Kaden Bizzozero (designated hitter) along with sophomores Gavin Roebuck (third base), Blake Ulander (third base), Jack Sampson (catcher/third base/shortstop), James Showman (right fielder/pitcher) and corner outfielder Carson Pasinski could contribute.

“We’ve played against some good programs,” Spisak said. “We scrimmaged against Norwin and Latrobe. It was nice to see good competition.

“The players learned what they have to do to get where they need to compete. Experience is what they lack, and as soon as we get up to speed, we’ll be OK. Our defense has improved, and our hitting is getting better.”

Yough also is in a new section this season after dropping to Class 3A. It will compete in Section 4 against Brownsville, Charleroi, McGuffey, Southmoreland and Waynesburg.

The Cougars will find out quickly about the new section as they open against section favorite Brownsville at home Tuesday.

“We’re excited about the new section,” Spisak said. “I don’t know much about the teams. I know they’re all solid programs. But as long as we play our game, be aggressive on the mound and play good defense, we’ll be OK.”

Spisak also likes the new schedule setup of playing teams on back-to back days.

“It’s going to test your pitching depth,” Spisak said. “I’m eager to see how it works.”

And Spisak has a lot of pitchers on the roster.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.


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