Sunny starts for A-K Valley baseball, softball teams

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019 | 10:55 PM


Freeport waited a few extra days to finally hit the field for real this baseball season, the weather relenting enough for the Yellowjackets to play a nonsection game Tuesday against Washington.

Compared to last season, they’ll take it.

While the early-spring weather in Western Pennsylvania remains predictably unpredictable, the sun is shining brighter on teams’ schedules this season compared to last spring, when near-constant postponements kept many teams — such as Freeport — from playing a game before their section schedule began.

“I’ll be honest, I had no idea what to expect (last season),” Freeport coach Ed Carr said Tuesday, after the Yellowjackets beat Washington, 12-1, in their opener. “ … You go into that (unsure). Last year I at least felt like I knew who our top 10 or 11 players were. But we didn’t see live pitching. We didn’t see enough situations. We based it off experience.”

Most teams spend the winter months indoors as they begin to prepare for the upcoming season. When the first official practice date hits in March, field conditions often prevent them from practicing much on their own diamonds.

While some teams take advantage of turf football fields or use their batting cages, nothing prepares them for the rigors of section play like an actual game.

Some teams escape the cold altogether, going south for a few games. Deer Lakes’ baseball and softball teams traveled to Myrtle Beach, S.C., last week for a handful of games. Plum’s baseball team went to Florida. Valley baseball will hit Myrtle Beach this weekend.

Deer Lakes baseball uses an indoor batting cage adjacent to its home field, but the Lancers enjoyed the opportunity to play outside a little bit.

“It’s really good for our hitters to be able to see some extra pitches in consecutive days, consecutive games, so that they can really get their timing developed,” Deer Lakes coach Josh Tysk said. “And that really helps kick-start your season.

“As you get later on in your visit there, you start to run down on pitching. If something happens, and you have to make different moves later on in the year, you feel more prepared to make certain moves based on things you had to do situationally when you were there. It just makes me feel more at ease as a coach.”

Deer Lakes softball makes the Myrtle Beach trip annually, as coach Craig Taliani believes it’s important to sharpen on-field performance early in the season.

This year, the venture also provided a much-needed opportunity to build camaraderie for the young Lancers. Only one of their players had been part of the team trip before.

“I think it was really as important for us as a team to get together and spend some time really just locked up together for four or five days and get to know each other,” Taliani said. “They had a good time. We went to a couple different places … for dinner, and they had karaoke singing. It was a good experience all the way around.”

Freeport also is attempting to break in an inexperienced roster, and though the Yellowjackets played a pair of scrimmages, those didn’t provide the same competitive opportunity as Tuesday’s opener against Washington.

“Once they know there’s a win or loss in the newspaper, I think there’s an extra adrenaline,” Carr said.

Burrell experienced that, too, in its baseball opener against Kiski Area. The Bucs rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to take a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, then watched as Kiski Area loaded the bases with no outs.

A double play and flyout allowed Burrell to earn a 4-2 win.

“The competitiveness really comes out,” Burrell coach Mark Spohn said. “I have a pretty competitive group of kids that wants to compete. A scrimmage, you’re moving in and out, you kind of lose your competitive edge.”

Even in the losing effort, Kiski Area, which has a new coach in Aaron Albert, saw the positives. The Cavaliers, who are scheduled to play nonsection games against Plum and Penn-Trafford on Thursday and Friday, put themselves in position to win before their sharply hit balls turned into the double play and flyout.

“I told (the players) today, you get three dress rehearsals before section play, and this was one,” Albert said. “It felt like a playoff game: 4-2, bases loaded, no outs in the seventh. We saw their ace, and we threw two of our good pitchers. It was fun.

“You want to come out on top, but ultimately it doesn’t affect you for playoffs. It’s good to get out here against a quality team like that.”

The hope now for teams is the relatively pleasant weather sticks around, particularly because section play already began Tuesday in softball and looms next week for baseball.

Deer Lakes softball saw a scheduled nonsection game against Armstrong postponed Wednesday and now must wait to play again until next week.

“We’re just hoping we don’t have to sit and wait for a week and a half,” Taliani said. ” … It makes a big difference when you’re sort of primed and ready to go. You want to get out there and see what you can do against the local competition. We’re hoping the weather breaks for us, and we don’t have to wait too long to get back out on the field.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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