Senior-heavy Yough baseball hopes to make run toward WPIAL title

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Friday, March 20, 2020 | 7:45 PM


Yough baseball is carrying a secret.

The Cougars want outsiders to focus on what left the program, such as Pitt freshman Jarrett Bach, after last season and not on what is returning, which is six starters.

“Everyone put our success last year on Bach,” senior pitcher/infielder Michael Bell said. “We have a lot more than Bach. We have a lot of talent.”

Yough finished 14-7 last season, an eight-win improvement from 2018, and tied Greensburg Salem for the Section 1-4A title with a 10-2 mark. The Cougars reached the WPIAL semifinals and were a 1-0 loss to New Castle in the third-place game from qualifying for the state playoffs.

Bach was a big part of Yough’s success, but the players around him gained valuable big-game experience.

“We’re more confident this year than last year,” catcher Steve Manon said. “The seniors are a close-knit group, and we feel confident. I think we can be a better team than last year.”

The key for the Cougars is to maintain their confidence level while the sports world waits to resumes activities suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak. Yough players are keeping arms in shape and swings sharp individually, hoping the pandemic lessens and the team gets an opportunity to build on last season’s success.

“I told the kids at our last practice (March 13) before they postponed it for two weeks that we’re in unprecedented territory,” Yough coach Craig Spisak said. “There hasn’t been anything like this that has happened before in our lifetimes, and you can only control what you do on your own until a decision is made.”

Yough, possibly more than some teams, wants the spring sports season to return.

The Cougars bring back nine seniors, seven with significant experience. Among the group is Bell and Manon, who are capable of playing multiple positions.

Bell might be relied upon as the leader of a deep pitching staff. He went 6-1 last season. Manon, who will play at Saint Vincent, might pitch, too, but the former second baseman and third baseman is too valuable behind the plate.

“I’d be very happy if I can keep him there,” Spisak said.

Nate Wilkins is a returning starter at shortstop and will pitch. Second baseman and leadoff batter Cody Ulander, outfielder Caden Kastronis and third baseman/outfielder Ray Halahurich are back.

Ulander, Manon and Halahurich were the Cougars’ top hitters last season.

Juniors Sean Royer and Vinny Martin add depth and experience to the pitching staff.

“It’s a nice four-man rotation. Two juniors, two seniors, that makes it nice,” said Spisak, who guided Yough to its first playoff win in 16 years last season.

Yough hopes postseason victories become more of a regular thing.

To get there, the Cougars will have to contend with Mt. Pleasant, Highlands, Greensburg Salem, Knoch, Derry and Indiana in section play.

They feel up to the challenge, should the season resume.

“Our whole lineup can hit. I don’t see one guy that can’t hit,” Bell said. “We have experience, and we’re all confident in each other’s abilities. I think we can make the playoffs. We made the semifinals last year. Our goal is to win the WPIAL. That’s our goal.”

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