Quality wins provided plenty of highlights for Baldwin baseball

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Sunday, June 13, 2021 | 11:01 AM


All in all, Baldwin first-year coach Steve Bucci termed his team’s 2021 season as successful.

The Highlanders won three of their final four games to end up 2-8 in Section 2-6A and 8-12 overall.

“I think this season was a success,” Bucci said. “I realize outside of the program they look at your record and think it was bad season being 8-12. We beat some very good teams — Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair, Norwin, Central Catholic, Plum, Chartiers Valley, Thomas Jefferson; they were all playoff teams.”

Bucci, with WPIAL and PIAA titles on his coaching resume, was hired at his alma mater in the 2019 offseason.

He coached at South Park for 16 years from 2000-06 and 2011-19. Under his direction, South Park was a WPIAL runner-up in 2002, won a WPIAL title in 2013 and finished second in the WPIAL and state in 2017.

Bucci also coached at Serra Catholic, Canon-McMillan and Bethel Park. He won a state championship with the Big Macs in 2008. His career record is 338-170.

The Highlanders ended the 2021 campaign with nonsection victories against Chartiers Valley, Plum and Central Catholic, followed by a season-ending loss to Quaker Valley.

The team’s biggest win, perhaps, was a 13-9 decision April 9 on the road against WPIAL finalist Bethel Park.

“We had some injuries that set this team back, but we kept fighting to the last game. I am very proud of the whole program,” Bucci said. “We were in our first year with the boys. We will reorganize in the fall with a lot more depth and continue to meet our team goals.

“I believe next spring will be different, and we will be in a better situation with a whole lot of experience coming back. I think we have a lot to look forward to.”

One player who won’t be returning is senior shortstop/pitcher Colton Brain, who led the club in hitting with a .317 batting average to go along with six doubles.

Carson Chapel, a sophomore pitcher/outfielder, missed half the season but still led the team in home runs. Junior pitcher Jon Rauch and Chapel tied for the team lead in RBIs.

Rauch, who has a 4.1 GPA, gave up playing basketball to concentrate on his baseball career. Rauch and Chapel are lefties.

“My season didn’t go as planned,” Rauch said. “I won my first two starts on the mound against TJ and Norwin, but in my third start against Hempfield, I hurt my shoulder. I found out I have a … tear in my labrum, so I have to get surgery. I am confident I can return from surgery ready for next season.

“Overall, we didn’t get the results we wanted to see. However, we showed that we can compete and battle against other teams. We improved as a system and shared great team chemistry, which will carry on into the future. My expectations for next year are that we make the playoffs and go on a run in the playoffs.”

Baldwin’s leading base-stealing threats this season were outfielders Connor Lavelle, a senior three-sport standout, and junior Ashton Nort.

“Freshman Adam Ledbetter (SS) was brought up to the varsity at the end of the season, along with sophomores Christian Forgacs (P/OF) and J.T. Kail (2B),” Bucci said. “All three did really well.”

Ledbetter hit .364 in limited at-bats and turned three double plays in the field.

More integral players players expected to return in 2022 include OF Nick Santillo, pitchers Jake Scarpino and Dom Stanziano, C Dylan Wyse, 1B/OF Liam Gutendorf and OF Zach Ingold. All are juniors except for Wyse, who is a sophomore.

“Dylan Wyse has become a great defensive catcher,” Bucci said. “We will have at least 12 returners next season with a lot of playing time gained this season. We will lose one senior pitcher in Colton Brain.”

Brain, the team captain, opening-day pitcher and honorable mention all-section selection, was one of nine seniors on this year’s squad, along with Lavelle, Chris Aul (3B), Tim Dowd (IF/OF), Fletcher Hindman (SS), Patrick Bobuk (1B), Anthony DeFazio (C), Mike Sabo (1B) and Derek Deering (2B).

“I’d like to thank the seniors for a solid season,” said Bucci, who was assisted by Mike Reilly, Anthony Giordano, Jeff Bywalski, Zach Kozlowski, Andy Cornell and A.J. Kavinsky.

Hindman plans to continue his career at Davis & Elkins, a Division II college in West Virginia. Bucci played baseball at Davis & Elkins and graduated in 1990.

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