Penn-Trafford baseball gets boost from former pro Dana Williams

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Monday, May 27, 2019 | 8:17 PM


Like most championship baseball teams, Penn-Trafford relies heavily on its pitching and defense.

Of the squad’s 18 wins, the Warriors have allowed two or fewer runs in 11, including four shutouts.

However, Penn-Trafford’s offense isn’t too shabby, either. The Warriors have scored 127 runs in 21 games (6.1 per outing) and tallied more than six runs in 10 of their wins, including 7-3 and 7-2 decisions over Upper St. Clair and North Allegheny, respectively, in the WPIAL tournament.

Penn-Trafford (18-3) hopes the offense continues Wednesday when it meets Pine-Richland (17-4) for the WPIAL Class 6A title at 7:30 p.m. at Wild Things Park. It’s the program’s first WPIAL championship appearance.

“It’s an exciting time for all of us involved in the program, not only for the players but the school, community, boosters and fans alike,” Penn-Trafford coach Dan Miller said. “We’ve done a nice job of staying focused and prepared all season. We’re producing in all phases of the game. You want to come into this game ready, and I think we’re ready for this moment.”

The Warriors got a boost this season with the addition of assistant coach Dana Williams. He grew up with Miller in Penn Hills before moving to Monroeville and, later, to Alabama. He played for the Crimson Tide and signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1983 and appeared in eight games with the Red Sox in 1989. He spent several years as a minor league coach and manager afterward.

Williams was East Allegheny’s coach the past three seasons. Miller was happy to offer his old friend a spot this season.

“We played East Allegheny last year, and I hadn’t seen him in 40 years,” Miller said. “Our guys have all embraced him. He has done a great job with our hitters and our baserunning phase of the game. Shame on the guys if they’re not sitting next to this guy listening to what he says. He brings a wealth of experience.”

The Warriors have welcomed Williams into their baseball family.

“He has a whole different level of knowledge than most coaches,” Penn-Trafford senior catcher Cade Patterson said. “He is one of the most approachable people, too. He will answer any questions you have. He has a huge book of knowledge on the game, which is really good. He has clicked perfectly with us. We all love him, and he loves us.”

Said Penn-Trafford senior Tyler Horvat: “Coach Williams has been fantastic. He’s drawn rave reviews from every kid on the team. He’s been a great add to a fantastic coaching staff.

“He works with us day-in and day-out. Every single question we’ve had this year, he’s answered, whether it’s baseball related or how to conduct ourselves off field or anything about training.”

Williams has helped the Warriors at the plate but also with the process leading up to that point.

“He has helped us all out individually. He’s helped with our swings and approach to the plate. He’s made a big difference for us this year,” Patterson said. “I had a little bit of a hitch in my swing earlier in the year, and he helped me fix that and helped me get my mind right and concentrate before getting in there for the at-bat.”

Added Horvat: “Approach-wise, for sure, he’s been huge. Pitchers nowadays are so good that, if you fall behind, you’re in trouble. He taught us to be a lot more aggressive.”

In addition to the on-field instruction, Williams has helped give the Warriors insight into pro baseball life.

“When we talk to him, it doesn’t even really need to pertain to the baseball side of things. His experiences with traveling and all the unique characters he encountered along the way are great,” Patterson said. “He has a lot of funny stories about the bus rides and other experiences. It’s pretty cool to hear stories about some of the big leaguers and people you’ve heard of before.”

His advice for going after the program’s first WPIAL title?

“He just said for us to go out and do our thing. At the end of the day, it’s just another game. The pressure may be higher, but we can’t think about it too much,” Horvat said. “Throughout the year, we’ve faced a lot of adversity. We tend to go down early in games, but no one panics. Our team chemistry is our probably our greatest asset. With the way we are playing, I like our chances. Coming into this year, we knew we had a real chance to accomplish something like this. Now, we’re just proving it.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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