Recent Springdale grad set to turn around alma mater’s baseball program
Wednesday, March 23, 2022 | 9:36 PM
If you’re at a Springdale baseball game this spring, don’t be surprised if it takes a minute to identify the team’s coach.
Dante Mahlmeister was hired in mid-February to lead his alma mater and attempt to turn around a program that has fallen on hard times.
Mahlmeister, 24, played baseball, football and basketball at Springdale, where he graduated from in 2016.
“It has its pros and cons,” Mahlmeister said of his age. “The kids are comfortable with me because it’s easy to relate to me. I dress the same way. We kind of listen to the same music. We laugh at the same things.
“But I have been trying to do a better job of drawing that clear line between friend and coach. But I ultimately think it’s an advantage.”
Mahlmeister’s biggest task, however, is trying to turn the Dynamos into a winner.
Springdale went 1-11 last year. The close to the season, however, was a bit more positive. The Dynamos were outscored 95-8 over the first eight games but 25-21 in the last four games, including a win over section foe St. Joseph.
That said, victories have been few and far between. Over the past three seasons, Springdale has won just four games.
“When I went to school there, we were coming off coach (Chuck) Wagner and (Don “Pappy”) Bolton from the football program,” said Mahlmeister, who is coaching at the high school level for the first time. “Their attitude permeated through all of the sports. Recently, some of the tradition has gone away. We’re just trying to bring back some of the old stuff.”
Despite having only 11 players, there is talent and experience on the roster. Six of the players are seniors.
“I’m kind of jumping into their senior year,” said Mahlmeister, a 2020 IUP grad. “At first they were looking at me like ‘who is this guy?’ And I went through the same thing with coaches. But they’ve come around, and we do have a good group of kids, no matter how small it is.”
Mahlmeister has built the roster with numerous multisport athletes. Pitcher Legend Ausk, who quarterbacked the football team, has a “live arm” that can top 80 mph, according to his new coach.
Another senior, Colin O’Day, will serve as a super-utility player.
“He’s ‘Mr. Reliable,’” Mahlmeister said. “He’s a guy to look out for, for sure.”
Junior Joe Wylly was a captain as a sophomore last year and returns. Chris Savko, a center fielder committed to Mansfield and the National Guard, will captain the team. Josh Kaminski is committed to St. Vincent for football, and Ricky Martinelli, also a standout football player, is set to join the lineup.
John Hughes, a sophomore who excelled in basketball this season, will join Ausk as the team’s other primary starting pitcher.
But finding pitching depth is tough for a small roster.
“We scrimmaged Bishop Canevin, and they rolled out nine pitchers,” he said. “There’s just no way that we can have nine out of 11 kids pitch. We have six guys who can step on the mound. But yeah, it’s been a challenge.”
Mahlmeister feels that, despite the recent lean years, Springdale could be primed to break through and compete for a playoff spot in a section that features PIAA Class A finalist Eden Christian, WPIAL finalist Riverview, playoff qualifiers Sewickley and Leechburg, as well as St. Joseph.
“With small schools, it’s always up and down,” Mahlmeister said. “The way I see it, it’s a big mosh pit for that last playoff spot.”
To get to that point, Mahlmeister, as well as his assistant coaches and former classmates Josh Lepish and Tyler Robbins, are focused on changing the team’s mindset.
“I’ve been trying to push them on being accountable,” he said. “It seems like accountability has kind of slipped. That’s not even specific to Springdale. It’s everyone.
“I want to make sure that they can all count on each other and be able to look to their left and right and know that person is going to be there every day and give the right kind of effort and attitude.”
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