Southmoreland baseball looks to change direction under new coach
By: Bill Beckner Jr.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 | 8:31 PM
Southmoreland baseball will be “governed” differently from now on.
Al Govern begins his first year as the Scotties’ head coach and is embarking on one of those everybody-buys-in, culture-changing projects. His passion for the venture alone could be what ignites a change in a down-in-the-dumps program.
“It needs a change,” said Govern, 36. “This team needs to be taken seriously again. There were times here in the past when the kids looked like fish out of water. We want the kids to win and have fun. Getting your block knocked off 30-1 isn’t real fun. I know it could take some time, but I’m here to help make it happen.”
A 2001 Southmoreland graduate, Govern is more old-school than stirrups and bubble-gum cards. A machinist at Better Edge in Scottsdale, he is pure blue collar and believes in the value of hard work.
“Go out and earn it,” he said. “School of Hard Knocks.”
Southmoreland has won just four games across the last three years, has three winless seasons since 2009 and has not made the WPIAL playoffs since 2008 when it posted a school-record 10 wins.
The Scotties were 2-14 last season, hit .173 as a team and hit just one home run.
“We don’t expect to win the state championship,” senior pitcher and outfielder Travis Sipple said. “We just want to win some games.”
Govern was a pretty good catcher coming out of high school and had an offer to play at Urbana in Ohio but, “I had a kid at 19,” he said. “I played at WCCC but then gave up the game and got a job.”
That kid is now a freshman on the team. Anthony Govern is a catcher/pitcher/outfielder and his father looks forward to working with him. But the younger Govern is only one piece of the next wave of players looking to avoid getting swept under the Class 3A current before mid April.
“We’re going to be a sophomore- and freshmen-based team,” Sipple said. “A lot of younger guys. We only have two seniors, but we want to try and be role models for them. Everyone is here to win.”
Sipple said Govern’s approach is rooted in fundamentals, and he wants to cultivate the program with basics and toughness, traits Sipple appreciates because he is a hockey player. He plans to play his main sport at Kent State. He plays hockey at Connellsville as part of a co-op.
“He says hustle beats talent, and talent doesn’t matter if you don’t hustle,” Sipple said.
Govern said Sipple is the nucleus. He’ll be joined by some young utility-type guys in sophomores Mason Basinger, Michael Klatt and Ben Zimmerman, who moves from catcher to second base. Freshman Brok Potoka could take the catching duties. Sipple, Basinger, Zimmerman, junior Austin McBeth and junior Kolby Loucks are returning starters.
“I coached lot of the freshmen and sophomores in the Pittsburgh Metro League and we won the championship,” Al Govern said. “They want to win.”
Govern said he also wants to link up the youth recreation league and the high-school program to bridge what he sees as a long-time disconnect.
“The kids need to buy into the process all the way up,” he said. “The programs are separate, and they need to communicate and be working together.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .