Mt. Pleasant baseball hopes to use hard-nosed approach to earn another playoff bid

Monday, March 16, 2020 | 1:27 PM

Like many teams, Mt. Pleasant baseball is not sure when it will play its first game, but at any rate, coach Chris Firmstone likes the makeup of his team.

The Vikings’ season-opening trip to Myrtle Beach was canceled by the school district due to escalating safety concerns over the coronavirus.

Firmstone is focusing on the things he and his players can control, and that is fielding another determined lineup like the ones Mt. Pleasant has rolled out in recent years.

The program has developed a gritty reputation and a knack for grinding out games to get into the postseason.

“They are a good, hard-nosed group of kids,” Firmstone said. “They’re disappointed about the trip, but we have to refocus and get ready to play. It’s amazing how much bigger and stronger kids can get in a year.”

Mt. Pleasant played in a WPIAL championship game in 2017 and gave eventual runner-up Blackhawk, the No. 3 seed, all it could handle in the quarterfinals last season.

The Vikings have made four straight playoff appearances. They were 10-9 last year and tied for third in Section 1-4A.

The coach’s last name does not describe the current state of the Vikings, who aren’t quite ready to fill out a lineup card.

“We’re still trying to get guys in the right spots,” Firmstone said. “Nothing is set in stone yet.”

On the roster, a number of players are listed as playing several positions – INF/OF/P is a common label — which perhaps speaks to the versaility of the group.

“A lot of teams have kids who just play baseball year-round,” Firmstone said. “Here, we have kids who play other sports and we try to get them all to play baseball as a group when the season starts. We have kids who really have the want-to and strive to get better.”

The team lost only two starters and returns key players in senior Joe Shrum, junior Jared Yester, senior Hunter Tate and sophomore Jeremy Kitz.

Shrum looks to be the No. 1 pitcher, while junior Asher O’Connor is a dependable catcher.

Other infielders to watch include juniors John Wagner and Steve Brown and on-the-rise sophomore Aaron Alakson.

Among the outfielders are sophomore Regis Sofranko, seniors Trevor Mason and Hunter Tate.

“There are a lot of moving pieces,” Firmstone said. “Our kids know what the expectations are and the attitude and atmosphere we want here. We’ll rely on our seniors.”

While he has never been averse to playing small ball, Firmstone thinks he may have some power in the lineup.

“We have that possibility with some guys,” the coach said. “Maybe they can get a few to leave the park.

“But we need to get stronger at moving guys on base and getting them around to the plate. Two years ago, we left 40 guys on base in three games (late in the season). We went from first place to fighting for a playoff spot.”

Firmstone also is not quick to assign a position to his section opponents. He thinks Greensburg Salem, Yough, Highlands and Knoch are in the mix in Section 1, along with Derry.

“It’s hard to say who the favorite is,” Firmstone said. “I hope it’s us.”

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


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