Offense helps Derry baseball team overcome slow start, get into contention

Thursday, April 29, 2021 | 7:02 PM

In between a pair of covid shutdowns — one that is going on now — the Derry baseball team discovered something about itself: It can flat-out score runs.

Derry (5-3, 3-2) jumped right into Section 3-3A play, losing its first two-game series to Valley. But it was quick to rebound, reeling off four wins in a row and four of five to merge into the playoff chase.

The Trojans have scored double-digit runs in every game they’ve won: 14-4 over Burrell, 10-6 vs. Mt. Pleasant, 12-7 and 15-0 over Ligonier Valley and 11-1 against Homer-Center. It adds up to 63 runs in eight games, 7.9 a game.

“We have really picked up the pace and have found some rhythm,” coach John Flickinger said. “We had a slow start I think mainly because of lack of games. We could not play our first few nonsection games. We then had to go up against a solid Valley team, and we lost a couple of good ball games and found ourselves in the hole.

“We have a strong group of senior leaders who stepped up and said this was not the way they wanted to see the season start, but there was no time for looking behind, rather to forge ahead and get on a streak. That is exactly what we did.”

The offensive barrage is a credit to a patient approach and recognizing situations. Big-scoring teams sometimes can get caught up in swinging at everything — but not Derry.

“We did expect to be able to put runs on the board,” senior Josh Ulery said. “I think our lineup has been solid, one to nine, every game, and different guys have stepped up.”

Ulery, a Pitt-Johnstown commit, is hitting .652 with 14 RBIs and 10 runs.

The Trojans are batting .368 as a team, putting pressure on the defense to satisfy Flickinger’s demand for such things.

“During this streak, we have done the little things,” Flickinger said. “We have executed bunts, hit-and-runs, and we have run the bases extremely well. If you go up there and do not have an idea what your role is, you are being selfish. We have come a long way with this group in the past few seasons with cutting down on strikeouts and lazy fly balls.”

Derry is seeking its first section title since 1992. The Trojans brought back eight lettermen from the 2019 team, 10 seniors, six juniors and a sophomore.

Ryan Bushey, a senior who will play at Mount Aloysius, is hitting .444 with 10 runs and also pitches.

Flickinger hopes the rest of the team’s key aspects catch up to the bats.

“As much as I love to score all of these runs, I hate to give them up as well,” Flickinger said. “I think our pitchers have done a real nice job, (Paul) Koontz and Ulery in particular. Bushey and (Nick) Detore give us a nice change of pace, and I am waiting for our big guy, Ryan Hood, to start delivering what he is capable of. If he gets going, that makes our staff pretty solid and deep.”

The 6-foot-4 Hood has the potential to power the five-man staff. He is finding his rhythm again after tearing his labrum as a freshman in basketball in 2018.

“I would definitely say that the team chemistry we have is super important to our offense,” Hood said. “We’ve all been playing together since little league. Everybody knows how to pick each other up. We all know how good of a team we can be.”

And as much as the Trojans have enjoyed 10-running teams, Flickinger would like to mix in some white-knucklers to keep his veteran group honest.

“Call me old school, but I love those tight section games where there is great pitching and defense, and it’s a little thing in the game that can either make or break you,” the coach said. “Something these kids have worked on for those moments. Those are the ones I like to be a part of the most. Any coach will tell you a lopsided win here and there can’t hurt the heart either.”

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


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