Mt. Pleasant stops Yough, sees room for improvement

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021 | 9:53 PM


Pete Billey had just finished a 2-for-3 day at the plate. He had two doubles and drove in two runs as the Vikings improved to 2-0.

But the Mt. Pleasant senior first baseman was already thinking about his team’s next practice after a 5-2 nonsection victory over visiting Yough on Tuesday.

The game was equal parts positive and negative for the Vikings.

“We have to go back to work and focus on fundamentals,” Billey said. “We’re glad to get out of it today after a few mishaps.”

Mt. Pleasant scored a few early runs but proceeded to commit six errors and let Yough hang around before finally securing its second win of the young season.

“We have to make the routine plays,” Vikings coach Chris Firmstone said. “A lot of balls were hit right at us. Nothing was easy. You can’t give teams extra outs. That is not going to fare well for us.”

Still, the half-dozen unsavory plays, which allowed Yough to score twice in the fifth with the Vikings ahead, 5-0, did not fully come back to bite the Vikings. And the offense was a bright spot, at least early on.

Asher O’Connor, Aaron Alakson, Jonas King and winning pitcher John Wagner all joined Billey with two hits, with Wagner also providing a run-scoring double.

Alakson and Billey drove in runs in the first to eventually chase Yough senior starter Vince Martin, and then the Vikings tacked on three more runs in the third on RBIs from Billey, Jeremy Kitz and Wagner.

Billey hit a grand slam in the Vikings’ season opener, a 5-2 victory over Uniontown.

“It’s always windy here, so I want to be able to take it opposite field,” said Billey, who also was hit by a pitch and walked Tueday. “If I get a good pitch, I want to take it for a ride.”

After a 1-2-3 fourth, the Vikings left the bases jammed in the home half of the inning and then let Yough back in the game in the fifth.

An error on a throw-over to first was followed by a dropped fly ball to give the Cougars their first run. After a passed ball, senior Sean Royer ripped a two-out double to make it 5-2.

“We had a lot of opportunities, some the game could have hinged on,” said Yough coach Craig Spisak, whose team lost its opener Monday to Upper St. Clair, 14-4. “There were improvements today. I thought our defense was better.”

Yough lost nine seniors from a team that never played a game last season due to the pandemic.

“Eight of them would have been starters,” Spisak said. “I think we had the potential to compete for a section championship. We have some young guys and they are learning. We’ll get better with experience.”

The pitchers the Cougars used had not seen varsity mound time before Tuesday. Yough loaded the bases but failed to do any more damage.

They also managed to fill the bases in the sixth after an error, a single by senior Logan Cocharek and a walk. But reliever Jared Yester got senior Ryan Lubovinsky to ground into a 6-3 double play to end the threat.

Firmstone wants his team to stay aggressive, even with multiple-run leads.

“We’re going to continue to build in having the right mindset,” Firmstone said. “But we have to be able to close out games. We have to shut teams down and not hit cruise control. When we’re up we need to stay up.”

Cocharek went 3 for 4 to pace Yough, which was out-hit, 11-6.

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

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