Quartet of ‘pleasant surprises’ helps Penn-Trafford baseball climb to No. 2 ranking in Class 6A

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019 | 8:57 PM


Even the best baseball teams don’t completely know what they have until the section schedule gets rolling.

Some returnees pan out, others fade out. Chemistry takes reps to be uncovered and even more reps to be intensified.

Penn-Trafford baseball coach Dan Miller has a group of players he calls his “pleasant surprises.”

They’re the players who showed promise in the preseason but still had to prove their worth on a team that has the look of a serious contender in WPIAL Class 6A — a team with loads of potential but also one that showed up this season with unvarnished detail.

“You need guys like that to come along and make an impact,” Miller said. “We have those guys, and they have made a difference.”

Among the group are four seniors: second baseman Connor Bannias, shortstop Mario Disso, designated hitter Luke Fabac and pitcher Bobby Kusinsky.

Their emergence has helped the Warriors (11-1) to a No. 2 ranking in 6A and first place in Section 2 at 4-1. Pine-Richland is ranked No. 1, although Penn-Trafford bounced the Rams, 13-2.

Penn-Trafford was scheduled to host Latrobe Tuesday but rain and lightning prompted a postponement to Friday.

“We’re the new nucleus,” said Disso, a third-year starter who will play at Pitt-Johnstown. “We knew we could be one of the best teams we’ve had here in a long time. We’ve been playing together since we were 7 or 8 years old. We all clicked together.”

Disso has been a steadying leader, Miller said. He leads the Warriors with a .389 batting average and has four doubles and nine RBIs.

“We needed him to become the Mario Disso of two years ago,” Miller said. “He has elevated his game as a hitter and surpassed his boundary defensively.”

Bannias, another of the team’s 11 seniors, has yet to make an error at second and is hitting .350 for the Warriors, who are in search of their first section title since 2007.

His vocal leadership has been a key.

“The last two years I played a bench role,” Bannias said. “But I realized I wasn’t working hard enough. So I worked harder over the summer. I knew if I didn’t get stronger I wasn’t going to start my senior year. We knew we could be unstoppable if we played like we could. We say we have the best defense and pitching in the WPIAL.”

Fabac did not play baseball last season, taking a year off in favor of AAU basketball. But he has brought another strong bat to an order that has more than a few.

“I wanted to come back and play with all of my friends,” said Fabac, who wants to attend Kent State to become a pilot. “I knew I might play outfield or do whatever I could. I just wanted to come back and do my thing. We all play a role; we fit together like puzzle pieces.

“We’re playing well, but we need to stomp on teams and finish them.”

Fabac homered this season in his first varsity at-bat.

“He came back strong after playing Legion and fall ball,” Miller said.

Kusinsky has developed into a closer for a well-built starting rotation led by senior Maclean Maund. He is 2-0 with a save and 17 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings.

“We knew Bobby had a good makeup and mentality,” Miller said. “He throws hard. He worked hard in the spring, a lot of bullpen sessions. He had to learn control. Once he got control, he had more command.”

Kusinsky, who saw minimal mound time as a junior, committed to play at Allegheny.

“I know I can get guys out, but I trust the guys behind me,” he said. “The thing about us is that it’s not all one guy. It’s someone else on a different day.”

And don’t forget senior catcher Cade Patterson, who took over behind the plate for Oklahoma State recruit Josh Spiegel.

“Cade has done a tremendous job,” Bannias said. “He does a great job getting to know his pitchers.”

Patterson, also a talented golfer for the Warriors, could join Bannias at Cal.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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