Ligonier Valley baseball looks to steal win against perennial power Mount Union

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Saturday, May 18, 2019 | 6:28 PM


Success can be measured a number of different ways in baseball. Of course, there’s wins and losses. Batting average, RBIs and runs scored are others. The Ligonier Valley baseball team measures success 90 feet at a time.

“We’ve forced some bases this year,” first-year Ligonier Valley coach Brett Marabito said. “At this level of baseball, it’s hard on the pitcher to consistently throw strikes and also worry about what is (happening) on the base paths. It’s the little things that will open up the game in high school.”

Marabito is being modest. His Rams are stealing bases like a small child sneaks a cookie — one at a time and often. Only the Rams aren’t leaving any crumbs behind. Ligonier Valley has recorded 111 stolen bases this season. It’s a number that has opposing coaches scratching their heads, until it’s time to take the field.

“Honestly, that’s not an exaggeration on that stat,” Marabito said. “It’s a legitimate number.”

The number is even more impressive considering Ligonier Valley (14-3, 11-1) has 115 stealing attempts.

“Come watch us play baseball,” Marabito said. “If you’re bored watching us play baseball, you need to check your pulse.”

Ligonier Valley won its first Heritage Conference title since 2012 with its 4-2 win over West Shamokin on Wednesday. The win earned the Rams a No. 5 seed in the District 6 Class AAA postseason bracket. Ligonier Valley will travel to No. 4 Mount Union (18-3, 11-2) at 4 p.m. Monday.

Mount Union punched its ticket with 9-0 win over Southern Huntingdon County on Thursday in the Inter-County Conference title game. Mount Union is no stranger to the postseason. The Trojans have won 17 District 6 titles through the years. Their most recent title came in 2012.

“They’re a perennial powerhouse,” Marabito said. “They’re a very good baseball school and have had a couple (Division I) guys in the past few years.”

Marabito and his staff have ushered in a new era of baseball that not only focuses on the small things, but everything. The Rams spend a considerable amount of time practicing bunt coverages, rundowns, situational baserunning and, of course, stealing.

“We look like we know what we’re doing in situations like that, and there’s no panic,” Marabito said.

When Marabito was hired, he noticed his team wasn’t necessarily made up of full-time baseball players, but it was full of multisport athletes who have had a lot of success. Athletes who have been there, done that and know how to win games regardless of the sport.

Senior Sullivan Schueltz leads the Rams with 22 stolen bases, followed by classmates John Caldwell (18) and Andrew Kuzemchak (16).

“Since we’ve been stealing so many bases, we’re able to turn walks and base hits into doubles,” Caldwell said. “As long as you do the little things right and not making any errors, the little things will feed into the bigger things.”

The Trojans have a pair of aces in senior pitchers Seth Smith (7-0) and Dylan Gearhart (6-2). A Binghamton recruit, Gearhart also leads the team in hits (31), RBIs (34), home runs (3) and batting average (.477).

Mount Union holds a team batting average of .389 and, in contrast to Ligonier Valley, has stolen only 34 bases. The Trojans have outscored Ligonier Valley, 190-151, on the season.

“It’s gonna be grind,” Marabito said. “There’s a lot of great teams in AAA. There’s no easy road win, but the grind becomes a lot easier whenever you’re hot.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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