Stacked lineup has confidence soaring for Greensburg Central Catholic baseball

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Thursday, April 11, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Practice ends on a pleasant afternoon, and Greensburg Central Catholic sophomores Ian Shipley, Anthony Grippo and Tyler Samide begin to play with an unwound baseball, its spider web-like strings flowing in the breeze while seeming to stretch from home plate to the fence.

GCC sure does know how to knock the cover off the ball.

Especially Shipley and Grippo, who started every game as freshmen and are carrying the momentum into their second spring season.

“Ship and Grip” bring a combination of power and plate patience that give the Centurions an edge in exit velocity.

“We put the bat on the ball a lot,” Shipley said. “It comes from the hard work and reps we put in. We’re constantly hitting indoors. We live baseball.”

Shipley would know about contact. If anyone leads with the barrel, it’s him. He was leading the team with a decked-out slash line of .769/.824/1.153, going 10 for his first 13 with a home run, two doubles, seven runs and six RBIs.

The infielder is the No. 2 hitter in the lineup behind senior speedster Sean Walker.

“His quality bats average is ridiculous,” GCC coach John Boyle said of Shipley. “He frustrates so many pitchers.”

Grippo, who bats third or fourth, was hitting .462 with a homer and five RBIs for GCC (3-1, 2-0 Section 3), the No. 3-ranked team in Class 3A behind Serra Catholic and Seton LaSalle.

Shipley and Grippo are expected to get the lion’s share of college attention on the roster as time passes.

“This is the best 1 through 9 (lineup) since I have been here,” Boyle said.

“With Shipley, nobody works harder. Grippo is always in the cage.”

Said Shipley: “It’s not about the numbers. It’s about putting the bat on the ball. We have to keep at it and stay humble.”

Boyle said Grippo is methodical in his at-bats, working counts and making pitchers challenge him.

A catcher who works in the offseason with Toronto Blue Jays minor leaguer and Norwin alum Max McDowell, Grippo has become a key leader behind the plate.

He expected GCC to demonstrate its offensive ability.

“We have some pop, for sure,” he said. “We hit the ball hard. There isn’t a big drop-off. We’re patient, but if we find a pitch we like, see the ball, hit the ball.”

The bookends to the lineup are center fielder Walker and shortstop Brody Bothell, who hits ninth but could just as easily lead off.

Bothell, like the current sophomores, started every game when he was a freshman.

“Walker has been so good, he’s made me forget my son (Wade Boyle),” Boyle said.

Senior Grant Miller (.400) and junior Jackson McMullen (.500) are other key players for GCC, which had to replace six seniors.

“Grant was strong last year,” Boyle said. “He can bash the ball.”

So can other players, but Boyle takes an old-school approach.

“Someone said we should try to hit a certain number of home runs as a team,” Boyle said. “That’s a good thought, but I want them to be more concerned about how many extra-base hits they get. That is the goal.

“To me, home runs are mistakes.”

Another senior leader is Tyree Turner, a football and basketball standout who moved to third base.

And don’t forget about Samide, a third sophomore whose impact has been felt more on the mound.

“We (sophomores) see ourselves in the seniors and juniors,” Samide said.

Samide, who transferred from Latrobe, has become a dependable pitching arm. He was 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA and also was hitting .357 from the fifth spot in the order.

“Everybody’s energy is up,” he said. “We root for each other. Everyone can hit.

“I put in work in the offseason. I shut down my arm from June to January, and it has helped me.”

Samide said pitching to the Centurions would be a chore.

“Oh, man,” he said. “That would be tough.”

Boyle likes his team’s power potential but wants to see it harnessed.

“It’s not about swinging for the fences every time,” he said. “We want to be good in situations and understand what we need to do.”

Boyle said the pitching staff has the potential to complement the offense. Consistency is the key. GCC sat more than 14 days between games because of the recent stretch of wet weather.

“We have some good guns on the mound, too,” Boyle said. “And there are a couple in the holster, too. And a couple in the armory.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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