Shady Side Academy baseball looks to future after bounce-back season

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Saturday, May 22, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Two years ago, the Shady Side Academy baseball team won less than 30% of its games, including two of 12 section matchups. But after a year off because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Bulldogs completely flipped the script.

In the 2021 season, the Bulldogs won eight of their 10 section matchups, turned in their first winning season since 2016 and earned the No. 8 seed in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs after finishing 10-6 overall.

“We had a very good season, and I would say we definitely got the program moving in the right direction,” Shady Side Academy coach Jordan Steranka said. “I believe the senior leadership got us going in the right direction, and we definitely had a very positive year, and it was a great turnaround from a couple years ago.”

Although the Bulldogs lost their first game, a 9-8 nonsection decision against South Allegheny, they battled back to win their next three, including two Section 3 matchups against Jeannette and a 14-4 decision over Sewickley Academy. They lost their next two against Serra Catholic, but won seven of their final nine to finish off the regular season.

Steranka said he couldn’t point to one moment where the turnaround began, but he said how the team responded after their first loss was a good sign of things to come.

“We lost that tough nonconference game against South Allegheny, so our mentality was are we going to do the ‘Here we go again type of mentality,’” Steranka said. “But our seniors kind of came together and righted the ship starting section play right after that first loss and got it going in the right direction. We kind of just got punched in the first game then got back up and kept moving forward.”

Shady Side’s play led the Bulldogs to their playoff matchup with No. 9 California, and they held the lead for five innings May 19. Seniors Tyler Hart and Billy Dunleavy both drove in runs, and Hart pitched six innings while scattering five hits and only allowing two earned runs.

Late in the game, California was able to capitalize on a few mistakes and bounce back to score two runs each in the sixth and seventh innings to take the lead and earn the 4-2 victory.

“It was one of those baseball games where we had a few chances early, we had the lead pretty much the entire game and we didn’t capitalize on a few chances when we left some guys on base,” Steranka said. “If we do that, I think it’s a different ball game. We kind of let them hang around a little bit. They were a very talented team, they got a couple guys on base and a couple clutch hits, and it was one of those games where the momentum swung their way to finish out.”

They came out on the losing end, but Steranka is happy with how the program is moving forward. Even after losing eight seniors to graduation this season, he knows he has talent coming back next year to continue moving the program in the right direction.

“We have a ton of positivity moving forward, and we have a few kids coming back next year that are going to be strong for us that will play key roles as well,” Steranka said. “We’ll also have a brand-new all-turf complex for us. So, there’s a lot of positive things going on with the program, and I can only see success moving forward.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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