Quaker Valley baseball takes next step, excited about future
Friday, May 17, 2019 | 8:03 PM
The Quaker Valley baseball season came to a close Wednesday with a swing of the bat as Brenden Gray’s two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning led South Park to victory in a WPIAL Class 4A first-round matchup.
Gray’s home run gave South Park a 2-1 lead. The Quakers put pressure on in the top of the seventh inning but could not come up with a run-producing hit.
“It was a tough one, you hate to lose that way,” first year Quaker Valley coach Dean Owrey said. “We certainly had them on the ropes. I think it was an excellent game start to finish by both teams that were competing.”
Although the Quakers lost, they were the first to strike. After a leadoff single by Yeudy Almanzar, Isaac Guss moved him to second on a fielder’s choice, and Jacob Commens drove him in to take the early lead.
From there, Quaker Valley’s Christian Johnston and South Park’s Kevin Vaupel dueled. Johnston allowed four hits, struck out seven and walked one while throwing 78 pitches. But the Eagles came calling in the bottom of the sixth.
With two outs, Vaupel poked a ball through the right side, which brought up Gray, who put an 0-2 pitch over the fence to push the Eagles ahead.
“The ball was a little bit up in the strike zone, and he put enough barrel on it to make it go out,” Owrey said.
The loss brought an unfortunate end to a great season for the Quakers. After finishing with a 4-11 record last season, they bounced back with an 11-7 record to secure a spot in the Class 4A playoffs with a late-season push.
After Section 2-4A losses to Blackhawk, New Castle and Beaver, Quaker Valley came alive midway through the season. It scored in the double-digits against Central Valley, Ambridge, and Cornell.
The Quakers scratched out wins over Neshannock, New Castle and Blackhawk. Owrey thought the Quakers were most improved with their approach at the plate.
“The first half of the season, we just didn’t play great defense. We pitched well. We hit okay, but our defense was poor and that’s why we lost to sectional opponents the first time around,” Owrey said. “The second time we played them, our defense was sound, our pitching was good, and our offense began to appear.
“We were starting to embody what we wanted to do on offense. You can’t be timid when you go on offense, the point of offense is to go on the offensive, and I think all of that started to reveal itself in the periods where we went on a run.”
The Quakers were back in the playoffs after a one-year absence, but it was more than that for Owrey. It was a step in the right direction. With just five seniors on the roster, Owrey will return a number of key contributors next season.
Owrey expects a number of talented players at the junior varsity level to contribute next season.
“We’re going to be good. We’re going to be very good,” Owrey said. “We’ll compete. … I’m very bullish on where we’re going to be.”
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