Trib HSSN baseball player of the week for April 30, 2023

Sunday, April 30, 2023 | 10:05 PM

The week before, North Allegheny senior Andrew Hart was passed up for a start in a Section 1-6A series sweep of Allderdice.

Apparently, absence from the hill can make the breaking pitches and the fastball fonder … and harder to hit.

The Hart was beating loud and strong for the Tigers in all three games of their showdown with Seneca Valley, capped Thursday by a dominant performance at the plate and on the mound as NA won two of the three games to take over first place.

“He didn’t pitch last week — no reason other than taking a look at what we have from the depth side,” North Allegheny coach Andrew Heck said. “We as a coaching staff felt Hart was the answer (Thursday). We felt very comfortable handing him the ball. Sometimes when you don’t get the ball given to you, you get a little hungrier. It worked for him. He had a lot of focus.”

The week began with North Allegheny and Seneca Valley tied for first place in the loss column with Pine-Richland and Butler.

North Allegheny pounded out 12 hits Monday and behind the pitching of junior J.D. Costanzo, beat Seneca Valley, 7-0.

“We had very timely hitting,” Hart said, “When we had runners in scoring position, we made things happen. J.D. Costanzo, who has been our ace this year, completely shut them down. We had a lot of energy. It was the first time playing Seneca since last year when they took a game from us. We went in with that dog mentality that we just wanted to destroy them.”

Hart was 2 for 3 at the plate with a run scored in the win.

Everything changed Tuesday at NA as the Raiders broke up a scoreless game with four runs in the fourth inning and then added on for a 9-0 win to even the series.

“It’s all timely hitting and getting those clutch hits,” Hart said. “I think we were a little complacent, and I don’t think we had the energy from the first game. After the first game, the team mindset was they were going to lay down and it just wasn’t the case. We walked to many guys, and they were able to scrap one out.”

At the plate in the second game, Hart was 1 for 3 with a triple.

The rubber game with first place at stake took place on the turf at Seneca Valley on Thursday.

The Gardner-Web recruit got the start and was fantastic.

He pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing one run after he was lifted, allowing three hits, two walks and striking out nine Raiders, six of whom were caught looking on lively fastballs and his curveball, slider and cutter.

“Coach Heck was right when he said it built like a hunger in me,” Hart said about not pitching last week. “I’ve been up to 93 (mph on fastball), but usually sit upper 80s, low 90s. When it’s on, I love to come inside and jam hitters. I was keeping them off timing because I don’t think I threw the same pitch twice to one batter, and I didn’t need to rely on one pitch.”

As good as Hart was on the mound, he was better at the plate. For the first time all season he was batting leadoff, and he went 4 for 4 with three runs scored and an RBI.

“Usually I’m in the 3, 4 or 5 spot,” Hart said. “When I saw I was in the leadoff spot, I know my only job was to get on base any way I could so hopefully, I could steal and score runs. So I shortened up a little bit and took more controlled swings and just tried poking the ball in the gaps.”

With the two wins, North Allegheny improved to 7-2 atop the section and 11-3 overall. The Tigers close out their section schedule this week with three games against Pine-Richland that will help decided the section championship.

“It’s a very passionate rivalry we have with them,” Hart said. “No matter what sport, no matter what we’re doing, you’re going to see two teams that just don’t like each other. With their success and our success, it’s inevitable.”

2023 Trib HSSN Baseball Players of the Week

Week 4 – Frank Kula, Laurel Highlands

Week 3 – Mason Horwat, Avonworth

Week 2 – Zane Griffaton, West Mifflin

Week 1 – Ryan Opfer, Chartiers-Houston


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