Trib HSSN baseball player of the week for April 16, 2023

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Sunday, April 16, 2023 | 8:32 PM


While most rivalries are built on geography, some are born from multiple postseason clashes.

The latter is true of one budding rivalry in WPIAL Class 3A. Playoff meetings and a slew of coaches changing from Eagles blue to Antelopes red has stoked the fire between Avonworth and South Park.

The two met in a Section 2-3A series this past week with first place at stake.

In the opener, Avonworth senior Mason Horwat shut down South Park, allowing no earned runs on only three hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts in the Antelopes’ 2-0 shutout of the Eagles.

“I had a lot of motivation to do good in this game,” Horwat said. “South Park has stopped us from reaching our goals the last two years. In my sophomore year, they beat us in the semis, and in my junior year last year, they beat us in the semis, 3-2, and I pitched again.

“I’ve been wanting to perform better, especially against them. We’re pretty much a rivalry now.”

At the plate Tuesday, Horwat had a hit and drove in a run to help his cause.

Adding to this rivalry is the fact that new Avonworth coach Jeff Bywalski and his entire staff coached and or played for South Park.

“He was able to control his emotions for such a big rivalry game where it has been a little heated the past two years between their fans and our players,” Bywalski said. “He just kept to the plan and kept throwing high quality pitches.”

After a low-scoring game in the series opener, both teams relied heavily on offense Wednesday at Avonworth.

The visiting Eagles scored 11 runs in the first three innings and led 11-3 heading into the fifth inning.

The Antelopes exploded for five runs in the fifth, six runs in the sixth and the game-winner in the bottom of the seventh inning for a wild 15-14 victory.

“The second game, we came out completely flat,” Horwat said. “We were down nine and kind of felt defeated, but we didn’t give up and slowly climbed our way back in. When we put up a five spot, that’s when I realized we can win this game.”

Horwat did his part for the Antelopes offense, going 3 for 4 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI.

“Mason has bought into the approach that we want him to have by keeping things simple,” Bywalski said. “Not swinging big all the time. The big shots will happen when you just keep it simple.”

For the season, Horwat is batting .367 with a team high three home runs and 12 RBIs.

“Mason has always wanted to be a hitter, and he is finally getting that opportunity,” Bywalski said. “He is our No. 4 hitter in the lineup and is doing a great job with taking what he can get out of his at-bats and not trying to do too much.”

On the mound this season, the Penn State recruit is 2-0 with a 1.15 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings.

Avonworth now has a one-game lead over Keystone Oaks and a two-game lead over South Park and Steel Valley. This week, the Antelopes square off against South Allegheny in their section series.

“As I told our players that for us to achieve the goal of a WPIAL and state championship, we need to take every week one day at a time,” Bywalski said. “We are not good enough to take any game lightly. I told them that the South Park series was not going to define our season, even though it was a big series. We need to take every game we play the same and just keep getting better week in and week out.”

2023 Trib HSSN Baseball Players of the Week

Week 2: Zane Griffaton, West Mifflin

Week 1: Ryan Opfer, Chartiers-Houston

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