Penn-Trafford baseball reflects on historic season of success
By: William Whalen
Saturday, June 8, 2019 | 7:41 AM
Five years ago, Penn-Trafford baseball coach Dan Miller went through an interview process with the message that the Warriors were three to five years away from competing for a WPIAL title. Miller wasn’t lying.
“I started out with this program five years ago; one of the things I continued to preach was that a consistent product over an extended period of time yields results,” Miller said. “This season was the testimony to the work that we’ve put in over the seasons, and it yielded the results.”
Not only did the product yield results, it produced a historic season. A senior-heavy class of Warriors took the WPIAL by storm. First, Penn-Trafford (18-5, 8-2) produced the most amount of wins in a single season in program history on the way to the Section 2-6A title.
The regular season didn’t go by without a few hiccups. After all, it’s baseball. Penn-Trafford fell to section rival Plum, 5-2, in mid-April and suffered a 7-6 loss to Hempfield to end April.
“I think we underperformed against Plum,” Miller said “We turned the page pretty quickly. We said all year everything we did was real. Our victories were real. Our expectations were real and our losses were real. They didn’t want to experience another loss, and they turned the page and were ready to go again.”
The Warriors showed their maturity and senior leadership by not losing back-to-back games during the regular season.
“The mindset after a loss was that it helped us improve,” said shortstop Mario Disso, a Pitt-Johnston recruit. “We just told the guys it’s part of the game. Sometimes, it just doesn’t roll your way. We rebounded really well off losses.”
Disso led the Warriors in nearly every statistical category, including batting average (.371), RBIs (19), runs scored (14) and doubles (5).
The Warriors rode the regular-season wave of momentum all the way through playoffs, picking up a 7-3 win over Upper St. Clair in the quarterfinals and a 7-2 win over North Allegheny in the semifinals to book their first trip to the WPIAL title game.
It was senior designated hitter Luke Fabac’s triple in the fourth inning against North Allegheny that tied the game at 1-1 and awakened the Warriors bats.
“It’s nice knowing that everybody wants to beat you,” Fabac said. “I want us to be the face of our section. When we were little (playing youth baseball), no one beat us. We knew that this was going to be a big year.”
The sea of Warriors green and gold filled the stands at Wild Things Park for the WPIAL Class 6A championship game last month. Penn-Trafford went into the final against Pine-Richland feeling confident, having downed the Rams, 13-2, during the regular season. But it was not meant to be.
Penn-Trafford ended up losing to the Rams, 7-2. The loss proved Pine-Richland played a better game that day but didn’t necessarily mean the Rams had the better team.
“I’d be a proponent to see that championship games be a best-of-three series,” Miller said. “You’re really trying to find out who is the better team that day, but you’re trying to find out who is the best team. We saw the same No. 1 pitcher and they saw the same No. 1 pitcher (from earlier in the season).”
Penn-Trafford suffered its first back-to-back losses of the season when the Warriors lost 6-5 to District 3 champ Wilson in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. It was the end of the a long road for the Warriors.
“It was a great experience overall,” said senior center fielder Jordan Sabol, a Saint Vincent recruit. “I’ve been with some of these seniors since I was 11 years old. I think everyone played well this year, and it was a great season overall.”
The Warriors were led on the hill this season by senior McClean Maund, who had a 6-1 record and a 1.75 ERA, with 61 strikeouts. Senior Tyler Horvat finished 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA. Senior relievers Tyler Chrise (1.12) and Bobby Kusinsky (1.31) were instrumental in the Warriors run.
“Over the next week, as the wounds heal from the losses, I’m going to look back, and it was everything I signed up for,” Miller said. “We’ve now created larger expectations. We want to be mentioned as one of the traditional winning baseball programs. I think we’ve arrived at that this year.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.