Patience key for inexperienced Monessen baseball team

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Sunday, March 28, 2021 | 4:21 PM


Bill Matush took over the Monessen baseball program 18 years ago, not long after the Greyhounds went through a 38-game losing streak, but the veteran coach still likes to keep things fun for his players.

One game Matush enjoys playing during practice is called “21” — something he picked up during his playing days at Alderson-Broaddus. It’s based on game situations, and the defense has to record 21 outs without making an error. Depending on the coach’s mood, the game could start over on something as simple as failing to back up a throw.

Getting through “21” is a little tougher these days at Monessen, and it’s not because of numbers or a lack of talent. What Monessen lacks is experienced players.

“I have one player who’s probably had more than two or three starts,” Matush said. “I honestly don’t know what to expect. The kids are good kids, and we have good leaders.”

That experienced player is junior Jack Sacco, who batted .306 with 12 RBIs as a freshman and compiled a 1-2 record.

Sacco will be counted on the anchor the lineup, the pitching staff and the defense when he’s playing third base.

“The first thing he brings us is experience, which is really important for this team,” Matush said. “He’s also one of top hitters and top pitchers. He can play pretty much anywhere, and I’ll know he’ll do a good job.”

But Sacco will be relied upon off the field nearly as much as on it, and he’s up to the challenge.

“I have to be a leader for this team. There’s only three of us with any type of varsity experience,” Sacco said. “I think I can bring a lot of knowledge to the team, and consistent play. I want to be someone the rest of the team can look to.”

Senior outfielder Sonny Thomas, who had eight RBIs as a sophomore, and senior first baseman Angelo Mauro, a first-year starter, are the Greyhounds’ other experienced players.

Junior Kody Kuhns joins Sacco as Monessen’s primary pitchers. Kuhns is the harder thrower of the two, with a solid fastball and curveball. Sacco is more of a command pitcher, with a repertoire of off-speed pitches. Thomas will be the third pitcher.

Matush also will look toward senior Chas Mrlack, who could do some pitching and play in the outfield, and sophomore infielders Ben Speicher and Dante DeFelices. Sophomore Jaisean Blackman also could provide a spark.

But until this group gets more games, Monessen will need to practice something else.

“Early on, we definitely need to be very patient,” Sacco said. “I think patience is going to be a big key for us.”

Monessen did get a pair of opportunities to see how its fresh-faced lineup would react in scrimmages against Washington and Carmichaels, both teams who appear on the Greyhounds’ nonsection schedule. It becomes official Monday in a nonsection game at Southmoreland.

The Section 2-A schedule kicks off April 6 against Bishop Canevin.

Matush mentions Bishop Canevin and Greensburg Central Catholic as section favorites but hopes his team picks things up quickly enough to extend its run of WPIAL playoffs appearances to four straight.

“When I took over, we weren’t too far removed from a 38-game losing streak,” Matush said. “We’ve kind of started something here by making the playoffs three straight years. That’s a pretty big accomplishment for us. I’d like to keep it going.”

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