Quaker Valley baseball hopes to build on recent hot streak
By: Shawn Annarelli
Friday, April 26, 2019 | 6:50 PM
Quaker Valley’s baseball team has endured a season similar to Western Pennsylvania weather. One minute, it’s sunny and cheerful. The next, it’s raining and dreary.
If the Quakers can maintain consistency after their best week of baseball in years — the team outscored three opponents 39-6 last week — it can reach its potential in the second half of the season.
The week prior to the win streak, Quaker Valley lost three in a row.
Coach Dean Owrey called the team’s fielding “embarrassing” after the Quakers committed 12 errors in those games. The lineup produced eight runs, and only the pitching was effective.
“That week was a bit of an anomaly,” Owrey said. “We didn’t pitch poorly. We didn’t always hit well, but we played awful defense. We couldn’t end innings against good teams, which is why we lost.”
What the team needed, Owrey said, was a change in approach.
“There is a great quote I shared with this team before we made the pivot, a Don Drysdale quote,” Owrey said. “He said, ‘If a hitter is timid, it’s the pitcher’s responsibility to remind the hitter that he is timid.’ That was so classic of us for that (losing streak), and good teams took advantage of us.”
Pitching will continue to be Quaker Valley’s backbone, but its fielding and batting have reversed course since Owrey focused on rebuilding the team’s confidence.
No one committed an error during the win streak, and the team scored in double digits in each game. The streak was snapped Wednesday in a 2-1 loss to Obama Academy.
Senior Christian Johnson led the way during the win streak with eight hits in 10 at-bats, which increased his batting average from .300 to .467. He hit two home runs and drove in 13. His clutch batting followed five consecutive games without an RBI.
“Christian was hitting the ball hard before that,” Owrey said. “He was hitting rockets, but, unfortunately, he was hitting right at guys. When you don’t have your offense going, even those don’t go your way. Last week he hit the gaps, and everyone else hit around him.”
Johnson also has a team-leading 1.56 ERA.
Owrey expected Johnson to be a pitching ace, but he told him in the preseason he was “too talented not to be a great hitter.”
Johnson said: “I’ve had a lot of fun these last few games, especially coming back to the dugout and seeing everyone having a good time. You know, we have great coaches. If we hit with them and go over our approach mentally and physically, we can keep this going.”
Senior Isaiah Piatt leads the Quakers with a .571 on-base percentage and scored seven of his 14 runs during the winning streak.
Senior Isaac Guss, junior Yeudy Almanzar and freshman Zeke Hendricks have combined to reach base 21 times in their 35 appearances.
“It’s great to these guys have success,” Johnson said. “After seeing how hard everyone works in practice and how much they want to do well, I’m just as excited for them.”
Opponents aren’t excited to face the Quakers’ rotation.
Senior Jacob Commens, Piatt and Johnston have combined for nearly two-thirds of the team’s innings pitched and a 1.72 ERA.
If the Quakers remember lessons from their losses and keep in mind what led to their victories, Johnson believes they can go far in the playoffs.
“Maybe we didn’t start so hot, but this past week is what we’re capable of when everyone’s firing on all cylinders,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to get caught up in our success, but we have to know what worked and what we need to keep doing to make it to our goals. The sky is the limit.”
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