Trib HSSN baseball player of the week for April 23, 2023

Sunday, April 23, 2023 | 9:33 PM

These are the best of times for Laurel Highlands senior athletes.

The football team enjoyed back-to-back runs to the Class 4A quarterfinals.

The basketball team has been a district power, winning WPIAL championships in 2020 and 2022.

Even the baseball team has reached the district semifinals two years in a row and qualified for the state postseason last spring.

Now the Mustangs are trying to gallop to the WPIAL finals for the first time since losing to Shaler when these seniors were in eighth grade.

“That was really exciting to see them make that run.” Laurel Highlands senior Frank Kula said. “I was at Wild Things Park for that game. It was an amazing atmosphere, and I loved everything about it. I was sitting in the stands thinking to myself, ‘I want to be in that position someday.’ ”

Laurel Highlands has put itself in position to make a run in Class 4A after back-to-back wins last week over Belle Vernon left the Mustangs one game behind Uniontown and Latrobe in Section 2-4A.

Kula has played a big part in the Mustangs’ success this season. He is batting .387 with five doubles, two home runs and 13 RBIs through 10 games.

“His contact rate is way up this year, which is driving his batting average,” Laurel Highlands coach Brad Yohman said. “He’s seeing the ball big and making hard contact, which is seeing good results. He’s responded with a move to the cleanup spot in our order and has produced 11 of his 13 RBIs in the past five games.”

That hot stick continued this week against the Leopards.

On Tuesday, he was 3 for 4 at the plate with a double, home run, two runs scored and four RBIs as Laurel Highlands tagged Belle Vernon with five runs in the first inning and five more in the sixth inning on their way a 13-3 road win.

“It was a great team win for sure as everything really clicked that game for us,” Kula said. “Our pitchers threw the ball very well, the defense was solid behind everybody and the whole lineup was producing, getting on base and driving in runs. It was a good team win for us.”

On Wednesday, the Mustangs went for a sweep of the Leopards at home.

After falling behind early, Laurel Highlands built a 6-2 lead after five innings, only to see BVA tie the score 6-6 after a big top of the sixth.

The Mustangs scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to improve to 4-2 in the second game with a 9-7 win.

“Frank did his damage as a table setter and scoring three runs,” Yohman said. “He got our offense started with a leadoff double in the second. He reached on a throwing error his next time up and scored on a sac fly. He provided a sac fly in the fifth and finished his day with a walk in the sixth and eventually came around to score our ninth run.”

After a slow start at 0-5 and 0-2 in the section, the Mustangs have won four of their last five games, including four straight section wins.

With two weeks left and a possible section showdown against rival Uniontown in two weeks, Laurel Highlands must deal with Ringgold this week.

“Our upcoming series with Ringgold is big for both teams,” Yohman said. “We’re both chasing Latrobe and Uniontown and also trying to stay in playoff contention. These two games will have a lot of meaning in our section standings, and we expected nothing less for this matchup.”

2023 Trib HSSN Baseball Players of the Week

Week 3 – Mason Horwat, Avonworth

Week 2 – Zane Griffaton, West Mifflin

Week 1 – Ryan Opfer, Chartiers-Houston


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