Shaler baseball continues school’s drought-snapping year

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Thursday, May 23, 2019 | 9:02 PM


Senior Justin DeSabato and the Shaler Area senior class aren’t ready to quit knocking down barriers.

The Titans football and basketball teams snapped long droughts during this school year. Football made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in seven years, and the basketball team snapped a drought of the same length by winning a WPIAL playoff game.

DeSabato, a three-sport athlete, helped Shaler save its best performance for the spring. With an 8-2 win over Mars last Wednesday, the Titans reached the WPIAL finals for the first time since 2003.

Shaler has won four district crowns, with its last coming in 1999. The Titans played Laurel Highlands for the championship in a game whose results were too late for this edition.

“This year, we knew we had a chance in every sport being 5A,” said DeSabato, who scored the winning run against Gateway in the quarterfinals and drove in a run against Mars. “It’s something special to be a part of. We all believed it would happen.”

Beating Mars to reach the finals showed progress for the Titans (14-7). During the team’s two regular-season meetings, Shaler didn’t plate a run in two losses.

Titans coach Brian Junker said before the game the Titans had shown progress since those defeats.

“We’re a better team right now,” Junker said. “The kids are working hard. I can see the kids getting better. They’ve been taking tons of reps and working on things at the plate. They couldn’t hit the curveball earlier in the year. They are doing that now.”

Dayton recruit Nick Rispoli shined against the Planets, throwing a complete game. Will Jamison and Colton Schott each drove in two runs.

Zach Hernon, Collin Harger and Tre Junker also provided RBIs. DeSabato believed Shaler was better prepared for how Mars approached pitching to the Titans.

“We took every pitch one-by-one,” DeSabato said. “After other guys got on, it was contagious.”

Junker felt his players have remained poised throughout the playoffs. Even during two nail-biters in the first few rounds, the Titans were prepared for the challenges ahead.

These players don’t fold easily. It’s an attitude this Shaler class wants to leave behind.

“They are coachable, and they have become more coachable,” Junker said. “What we’ve gone through in years past and the section this year helped us. They are never flustered. My coaching staff never gets flustered.”

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