Mt. Pleasant baseball focuses on bringing runners home

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Saturday, March 16, 2019 | 6:58 PM


Chris Firmstone does not get bogged down with or obsess over statistics.

The Mt. Pleasant baseball coach couldn’t tell you who led the team in a certain category last year or what opponents batted against the Vikings.

He is not an analytics type of guy. Keep your sabermetrics to yourself.

“I am only interested in how many wins and losses we have,” he said.

Firmstone did, however, mention a couple of numbers that stuck with him from last season’s 8-8 campaign, one that ended in the WPIAL Class 3A first round against Burrell.

“In our last three (regular-season) games we left 30 on base,” Firmstone said. “We lost those games by a combined 10 runs.”

This isn’t Moneyball type of stuff. The Vikings have the talent to get runners into scoring position again, but getting them all the way around more frequently could be what gets the team back above .500.

“We have to focus on the little things,” senior pitcher and outfielder Jared Wagner said.

It was only two years ago the Vikings played in the WPIAL Class 3A championship game. They were bumped up to Class 4A this year and will play with Derry, Greensburg Salem, Highlands, Indiana, Knoch, and Yough in Section 1. Firmstone expects experienced Greensburg Salem and routine playoff contender Knoch to be the favorites.

“Everyone went down. We went up,” Firmstone said, referring to a few other teams from 3A. “It’s going to be a pretty competitive section.”

Mt. Pleasant will be young but does not appear to be short on depth.

Three seniors return in Wagner, first baseman Mike Secosky and pitcher/infielder Dom Giallonardo.

The presence of Giallonardo, alone, is an inspiration to the team.

A few years ago, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that forms in soft tissue or bone. He had his right hip and part of his pelvis removed and was told he might not be able to play sports again. The cancer came back last year, but Giallonardo triumphed over the illness twice.

“He’s truly amazing,” Wagner said.

Giallonardo isn’t just occupying a roster spot or waiting for his obligatory senior day moment to swing the bat.

“He’ll play,” Firmstone said. “He pitched for us in a scrimmage and did pretty well. The kids just love having him around.”

The Vikings’ playoff trips the last two years have infused an air of confidence into the program and with it, a sense of belonging.

“Back when I played, teams used to save their ace for Mt. Pleasant,” Firmstone said. “They got up to play us. We want it to be that way again. Our program expects to be there. I expect our guys to compete every game, no matter who we’re playing. We want to make the playoffs and see how far we can go.”

The seniors will light the way.

“We have come good upperclassmen who have been to the postseason and know what it takes,” Firmstone said. “They have knowledge of the game. We want them to show the underclassmen the way.”

Wagner will be the No. 1 pitcher with junior Joe Shrum at No. 2.

“We have learned a lot from past teams, and our coaches have put us in a position to win,” Wagner said. “Now we want to go out and put that to use. I can tell you I am going to leave it all on the field. We want to keep Mt. Pleasant baseball on the map.”

Junior Kyle Jones returns to play second base, and sophomore Pete Billey is back to pitch. Junior Trevor Mason is a center fielder and pitcher, and sophomore Asher O’Connor plays catcher and outfield.

Sophomore Jared Yester is another infielder/pitcher.

Other players looking to contribute include sophomore infielders Steve Brown and Hunter Tate.

Seven freshmen dot the roster, including shortstop Aaron Alakson, outfielders Mike Noah and Regis Sofranko, and infielder/pitcher Cody Surma.

“We have some younger guys who are baseball guys, not just kids out for baseball,” Firmstone said. “It’s good to have that.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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