Fun-loving Latrobe baseball team fills up toy box, win column

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Thursday, April 14, 2022 | 6:00 PM


Simplistic and fun, some trinkets around the clubhouse represent Latrobe baseball’s approach to the game.

There’s the pink Barbie car, with Ken and Barbie nestled in and ready to roll, which is a postgame award that goes to the player or players of the game.

The shoebox-sized toy has been around since the team’s WPIAL and PIAA championship run of 2017.

A WWE-style championship belt carries similar clout.

There’s even a plush shark that sits on the bench to remind the Section 1-5A leaders to stay hungry. The team: Not one player, but all of them.

The Wildats are a fun-loving bunch, vocal and spirited, but they tend to get serious when it matters most.

“It’s about a team concept here and the kids have bought into that,” coach Matt Basciano said. “The seniors started it for this group and they passed it down to these seniors. Everyone has a role and is willing to do whatever it takes to help us win.

“That Barbie car is a big deal to them. The shark reminds them to attack when there is blood in the water.”

The awards, no matter how trivial to outsiders, have been making their rounds. Often, though, they’ve been going to the whole team.

“One thing is we will never quit,” senior catcher Logan Short said. “We’re going to keep looking for a way to win.”

Short is hitting over .600 and had a big two-game series against Franklin Regional, the defending WPIAL Class 5A champion.

Short had three hits and four RBIs, including a double, as the Wildcats (6-2, 4-0) swept the Panthers, 5-4 and 4-3, to run their winning streak to five.

He also caught senior Chase Sickenberger’s eight-strikeout, complete-game performance in Game 2.

“These guys are willing to make a tough defensive play, lay down a bunt — quality at-bats — to help us win,” Basciano said.

Latrobe won three straight one-run games. The other was a 7-6 walk-off victory over Hempfield.

The Wildcats also edged Indiana, 4-3.

Basciano often tells his batters to “hunt.” In several cases this season, the Wildcats have hunted for ways to scratch out victories, be it with small ball, a tide-turning double play or an extra-base hit at the perfect moment, in the perfect situation.

The Wildcats are developing an acumen for tight situations.

“We’re relentless,” said Sickenberger, who also plays shortstop. “We all come out ready to play.”

The Wildcats have 10 seniors and have also received key contributions from Jake Albaugh (P/OF), Bobby Fetter (P), Mason Krinock (IF) and Owen Miele (IF).

“I can’t say enough about the cohesiveness and unselfishness of this group,” Basciano said. “They all look out for one another and truly want to see us succeed as a team.”

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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