Trib HSSN athletes of the week: CW North Catholic’s Ryan Feczko, TJ’s Bella Bucy
By: Don Rebel
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 | 10:54 PM
School: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic
Claim to fame: He is only a sophomore, but Ryan Feczko pitched and hit beyond his years and was a big reason why Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic won the WPIAL Class 2A baseball championship this season. Feczko finished the season 5-2 with a 2.30 ERA, a save, 73 strikeouts and seven walks. At the plate, he hit .500 (26 for 52) with 22 runs scored and 18 RBIs. Last week in a pair of PIAA wins, Feczko was at his best on the hill and at the dish. In a 7-2 first-round win over Union City, Feczko was 1 for 1 with three walks and was the winning pitcher in throwing a complete-game one-hitter with nine strikeouts. Then, in a 5-0 quarterfinals whitewash of Conemaugh Township, he was 1 for 2 with a three-run double. The Trojans' dreams of state gold ended with a 2-1 loss to Rocky Grove in the state semifinals earlier this week.
Did you expect to have the kind of success you did this year on the diamond once you wrapped up basketball season and started preparing for baseball?
Yes, I was a little surprised. We made it to the WPIAL semifinals in basketball, and that caused me to miss a lot of the preseason baseball workouts. I actually only had one week off from our last basketball game to our first baseball game, so I wasn't really sure what to expect for the season. I had a pretty good first couple of games, and that gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.
What was it like being in 10th grade and starting in an all senior lineup for the Trojans?
It was actually great. They are a great group of guys, they took me under their wing early on in the season, and I could not have asked for better kids to lead our team. I knew that it was their last season, so I just wanted to win games for them. I was so glad that we were able to win the WPIAL championship in their last year. I am really going to miss them.
Were you nervous starting against Serra Catholic in the WPIAL championship game and how did you feel after CWNC won the title?
I'd love to say I wasn't nervous at all, but the truth is I was pretty nervous because our school hadn't made it to the WPIAL championship in a long time, and I know that chances like these do not come along often. The nerves really went away in the first inning as I settled in, and after that I realized that I could treat it like it was just another baseball game. Also, my coaches and teammates always do a good job of keeping things loose in the dugout, and that always helps the nerves. When Joe got the final out, all I could think of when I was sprinting towards the pile was that we did it. Throwing my glove up and jumping on the pile to celebrate was the greatest feeling, and I don't think I stopped smiling for the next few days.
With the season complete, besides winning the WPIAL crown, what were some of the other highlights for you and the Trojans?
On the field, winning the section title, having several come-from-behind wins in section play, and winning two state playoff games and making it to the state semifinals were the biggest highlights. Off the field, ringing the bell in front of the student body after winning the championship was the biggest highlight. Having a good time with our team on the bus and at dinner after big wins were also highlights that made this season memorable.
Do you become the team leader next year, and what are some of the things you want to improve on for your junior season?
We had several strong leaders on the team this year, and I hope that I can follow their example next year. I am very excited for the opportunity to lead our team next year and try to be as successful as we were this year. I actually think that I may need to become more of a vocal leader, instead of only leading by example. I know that I have lots of room to improve in all aspects of my game, and I will continue to work at that in the weight room and on the field before next season. Specifically, I hope to increase my power both on the mound and at the plate.
What is better, having a big day at the plate or pitching a gem on the mound?
That's a tough one. I'd love to do both in a game, but if I had to pick one, I would have to say throwing a gem on the mound because your team is sure to be in a position to win. On the other hand, you could have a big day at the plate but your team could still lose badly. That's why I would rather throw the gem, but it would always be best to do both.
Three things you are looking forward to doing this summer and one thing you are not looking forward to these next few months?
The three things I am most looking forward to this summer: going to the beach/pool with family and friends, playing baseball and golf all summer, and of course, sleeping in. The thing I'm not looking forward to this summer would probably be summer school work and studying for the SAT.
School: Thomas Jefferson
Claim to fame: There were 12 teams that qualified for the WPIAL Class 5A softball playoffs this spring. When the brackets came out, Thomas Jefferson was seeded No. 11. They played with a chip on their collective shoulders and upset Moon, Penn-Trafford and Albert Gallatin on their way to the district finals where the Jaguars lost 4-2 loss to defending champion West Allegheny. Last week, the Jaguars won a pair of PIAA playoff games thanks to the pitching and hitting of Isabella Bucy. The sophomore left-hander allowed one run in each state playoff win — 5-1 over Twin Valley in the first round and 4-1 over Interboro in the quarterfinals. At the plate, Bella was 3 for 7 with two doubles, a run scored and two RBIs. Bucy batted .441 with three home runs and 18 RBIs and had a 1.50 ERA. Thomas Jefferson's magical postseason run ended with a state semifinals loss to West Allegheny.
Thomas Jefferson was the No. 11 seed in this year's WPIAL 5A softball playoffs. Did you feel slighted by that low seed?
I definitely think we felt slighted by the No. 11 seed. Going into seeding, coach Heidi (Karcher) thought we would be in the middle somewhere because we had won most of our games but had some tough losses. When we found out we were given the No. 11 seed I know, me personally, I felt upset and believed we shouldn't have been given such a low seed. In the end, I think it just motivated us more to prove to people that we were better than just the seed they gave us.
Was there almost a ‘we have nothing to lose' mentality once the playoff started?
There was a ‘we have nothing to lose mentality going into the playoffs.' All the coaches told us before every game that we had nothing to lose; no one even thought we would win the first game in playoffs. So, we went into every playoff game thinking we had nothing to lose, and I feel like that helped make us play a little more loose and calm because no one thought we would make it to the WPIAL championship game.
Did you expect to have the kind of season you enjoyed at the plate and in the circle in your sophomore season?
I know going into my sophomore season I had some big shoes to fill with our senior pitcher graduating last year and losing some key seniors last year. So, I decided to quit my travel volleyball team and spent a lot of time in the off-season working with my pitching coach Anna Lauterbach to learn more pitches and throw harder for this upcoming season. I also did a lot of batting practice to fix my swing this off-season because I used to be a slapper, but my batting coach believed I was strong enough to be a power hitter, so that took a lot of time to make those adjustments. So, no I really didn't expect to have this great of a season, but I just have to thank my team for that. They always had my back when I was pitching, and thanks to them we made it as far as we did.
How bright is the future for this Jaguars program?
I believe the future for the Jaguars softball program is so bright. With being such a young team and gaining the experience we did this season I believe that with the freshman coming up next year and the team we had this year, we can make some noise in the postseason as well next year.
Is there is a big advantage to being a left-handed pitcher in softball?
I honestly do believe being a lefty pitcher does have its advantages. I feel like my movement pitches move so much more, and I always say that my fastball has its “natural lefty spin on it” because every pitch I throw moves.
What are your three can't-miss movies this summer?
My three can't-miss movies of the summer are: “Mama Mia, here we go again” because I love musicals. “Incredibles 2” because I've loved the first “Incredibles” since I was a little kid. Lastly, “Ant Man and the Wasp” because I love super hero movies, and I love a women superhero.
If you and your friends had a night out on the town, what three celebrities would you like to invite?
Camila Cabello because we love her music, Josh Hutcherson because we loved him in the movie “Hunger Games” and of course Jennie Finch because she's one of the best softball players of all time and we all look up to her.
Don Rebel is a TribLive High School Sports Network broadcaster and staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.