Jeannette seniors looking for one last run in baseball playoffs
Tuesday, May 7, 2019 | 5:41 PM
Next week is what Jeannette’s baseball team has been thinking about since last May — the start of the WPIAL playoffs.
After a semifinal loss to Vincentian Academy dashed the Jayhawks’ hopes for a repeat Class A title, they wanted to get back to the postseason and compete for another championship.
With eight seniors on the roster, Jeannette hopes to be a factor for the WPIAL Class 2A title this spring after PIAA enrollment numbers bumped them up a classification.
“I’d say we’re happy with how we’ve competed with moving up in class. Going from Single-A to Double-A is not that big of a jump, but there are better teams as you move up,” Jeannette coach Marcus Clarkson said. “With some of the better teams in our section, I think we did OK. I think we left a couple wins on the board, though.”
The Jayhawks wrapped up Section 3 play with a 5-5 mark — four games behind co-champs Serra Catholic and Seton LaSalle. Despite a .500 section record, Clarkson believes his team has the potential to go on a postseason spree like it did in 2017 when it had a lower seed as well.
“This senior class knows what it takes to win a championship. They went on that run once,” he said.
Still, the Jayhawks aren’t taking anything — or any opponent — for granted.
“We know you can’t get to the second round unless you win the first one, and you can’t get to the third round if you don’t win the second one. We know it’s one game at a time now,” Clarkson said. “The big thing about our big senior class was that most of the guys were on that championship team, and they know every pitch matters and every batter matters.
”In that championship run, we won three games in extra innings. We’ve been in some close games. So, these kids won’t be afraid of the atmosphere.”
Jeannette can turn to a healthy pitching staff, and it all starts with Zander Malik and Seth Howard on the hill.
“We’ve kept their innings down all year because we had some underclassmen step up,” Clarkson said. “Alex Vickers was 5-0 during the season, but we’ll lean on those two seniors and we’ll take our chances. We’ll have to be good defensively, too. Playoffs are a different beast.”
The Jayhawks strung together a three-game winning streak late in section play in which they outscored their Apollo-Ridge, Brentwood and Riverview, 22-5. However, they finished the slate with a 9-2 loss to Seton LaSalle and a 6-2 setback to Serra Catholic.
“Our bats have been better. We could always use some extra hits there, though,” Clarkson said. “In a lot of our losses, our bats have went cold, at times. That championship year, we were hitting one through nine in the lineup. You need that to make a run.”
Derrick Miller, Drake Petrillo, Malik and Howard have anchored the top of the lineup, but Jeannette hopes for a spark from the bottom, too.
“To go on a run, we’ll need them all to have contributions,” Clarkson said.
The Jayhawks close the regular season with a game at Kiski Area, a Class 5A team.
“We take nonsection games as they come, but I think our approach this year is a little different for that game,” Clarkson said. “We’re going out like this is a playoff game. We know these things are one and done, so even for a nonsection game late in the season, we’ll go into like it’s a playoff game in order to get us in playoff mode.
“This is definitely the exciting part of the year. You’re just so happy to be involved in playoffs. For us, it’s the fifth year in a row making playoffs,” he continued. “When we first got here 15 years ago, we were just hoping to win a game. It’s good. It’s good for Jeannette baseball and for the underclassmen to see how things go. The underclassmen know these seniors have been through some battles and they really look up to them. I am really close to them as well. They started in our Junior Legion system, and I have watched these kids grow up. I just hope we can go on another run.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.
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