South Hills notebook: Thomas Jefferson baseball excels under 1st-year coach
By: Ray Fisher
Friday, May 17, 2019 | 8:03 PM
Notebook items from around the South Hills:
• Thomas Jefferson’s baseball team won four consecutive games down the home stretch to finish in a tie for first place with Ringgold in Section 3-4A.
Under the guidance of first-year coach Tim Vickers, the Jaguars ended the regular season with an 11-3 section record and 13-5 overall. Ringgold finished 11-3 and 12-5.
TJ defeated rivals Uniontown, Elizabeth Forward, Belle Vernon and West Mifflin in the first week of May.
“I would have to say we are happy with the progress of the program this year,” Vickers said. “These young men have worked on every aspect of their game to be able to compete in a very tough section.
“While the team had a few hiccups along the way, I am proud of how they regrouped after several tough section losses. We lost three section games this year, each by one run. This same team went into a packed house at Belle Vernon at the end of the season and managed to come out with a dramatic one-run win in 10 innings.”
Five teams in the section qualified for the WPIAL playoffs: Thomas Jefferson, Ringgold, South Park (13-6, 9-5), Elizabeth Forward (11-7, 8-6) and Belle Vernon (10-7, 8-6).
“I believe the turning point of our season came very early,” Vickers said. “Our first section game was a night game at Evans Field versus South Park. It was a packed house. Felt like a playoff atmosphere. We managed to come out of there with a win versus a tough South Park team.
“I think that was the day our guys felt like they were going to be able to compete with anyone.”
• Thomas Jefferson’s boys tennis team placed fourth in WPIAL Class AA.
The Jaguars defeated Riverside, 5-0, and Winchester-Thurston, 4-1, before losing to eventual WPIAL champion Indiana, 4-1, and to section rival South Park, 3-2, in the consolation round of the team playoffs.
Junior Yash Maheshwari, freshman Drew Dimidjian and senior Ryan O’Leary are TJ’s top three singles players.
Seniors Andy Griffiths and Chad Gress won the section doubles championship. Dimidjian and O’Leary placed third.
Colin Ruggeri and Isaiah Gathala, both seniors, bolstered the Jaguars in doubles play.
• Thomas Jefferson drew a first-round bye in the WPIAL Class 4A softball playoffs.
The top four seeds in the tournament, consisting of Mt. Pleasant, Elizabeth Forward, Knoch and TJ, received byes.
The Jaguars will meet the winner of the Yough-Central Valley game May 20 in the quarterfinals. Yough was seeded No. 5. Central Valley was No. 12.
The championship games are May 29-30 at Peterswood Park in Peters Township.
• The recruiting process continues to pick up steam for Baldwin’s Dorien Ford.
The Highlanders’ sophomore defensive end recently announced scholarship offers from Syracuse and Nebraska, bringing his total to seven.
A 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end, Ford also has received offers from Pitt, Ball State, Howard, Robert Morris and Toledo.
As a sophomore, Ford ranked among Baldwin’s top tacklers, recording 10 for loss and recovering two fumbles. He was named an all-conference defensive end in the Class 5A Allegheny Nine.
• Baldwin’s baseball and softball teams opened and closed the WPIAL regular season in similar fashion.
The baseball team’s season opener March 25 at Thomas Jefferson was postponed and not rescheduled.
The softball squad’s regular-season finale May 7 at home against Brashear also was postponed, although the two teams played the following day.