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

Sunday, April 16, 2023 | 8:38 PM

Always a bridesmaid, now finally a bride.

After years as an assistant baseball, football and wrestling coach at Canon-McMillan, Brendon Steele finally got a chance to be a head coach when he took over for Tim Bruzdewicz this offseason.

The Big Macs baseball team has responded, winning 7 of their 9 games to date and tied for first place in Section 2-6A with Hempfield with a 5-1 record.

“I was certainly fine being behind the scenes, working with the kids and didn’t need the limelight,” Steele said. “But this opportunity came about as I was working my way up in the baseball world, from freshman coach to JV coach. When Coach ‘Buzz’ stepped down, I saw an opportunity to take this program to another level. I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to get the position.”

There is now a “buzz” around this program after a successful start.

After losing to defending PIAA 5A champion Bethel Park in the season opener 1-0, Canon-McMillan ripped off five straight wins, including a three-game section sweep of 2022 6A champion Mt. Lebanon.

That set up a big series with Norwin, which was 2-1 in Section 2-6A.

On Monday, the Big Macs and Knight exploded on offense for a combined 29 runs.

When the dust has settled, the opener went to Canon-McMillan, 16-13.

“It was definitely a shootout,” Steele said. “It always helps when your pitching is on, but if we’re struggling a little bit on the mound, we want to pick it up at the plate and we certainly did. We have a lot of faith in our pitchers, but I give Norwin a lot of credit. They are a great hitting team.”

Trailing 7-3, the Big Macs rallied for five runs in the fourth inning and seven more in the fifth.

Leading the way for Canon-McMillan was senior Andrew Kocan with two hits, three runs scored and four RBIs. Senior Mason Fixx had two hits, one run scored and three RBIs, senior Calvin Daniels had two hits and two RBIs and senior Austyn Winkleblech had two hits, three runs scored and an RBI.

In the second game on Tuesday, the Knights plated six runs in the first two innings and then held on to beat the Big Macs, 7-5.

Junior Cam Russell had three hits for Canon-McMillan, and Fixx and senior Lucas Dantry had a pair of hits.

In the section series rubber game Thursday, pitching finally prevailed as the Pitt recruit Winkleblech allowed one run and scattered eight hits. He struck out four in a complete-game victory for the Big Macs.

“Austyn Winkleblech was on, and he was hitting all of his stuff that day,” Steele said. “He kept them at bay. They were still getting hits, but we were making defensive plays with a couple of diving plays in the same inning.”

Kocan led the way for the Big Macs on offense with a solo homer and a three-run blast in the win over the Knights, 8-1.

The third of five section series for Canon-McMillan begins Monday with a midseason showdown for first place against Hempfield. The Spartans and Big Macs are 5-1 and tied for first place in the section.

“They are always well coached and make very few mistakes,” Steele said. “Just looking at the stats and hearing buzz around the WPIAL, you know they are always ready to play and solid in all phases.”

2023 Trib HSSN Baseball Teams of the Week

Week 2 – Mars Fightin’ Planets

Week 1 – Shaler Titans


More Baseball

2024 WPIAL Class 2A baseball championship preview: Serra Catholic vs. Seton LaSalle
Behind Tyler Maddix, Bishop Canevin tops Eden Christian to repeat as WPIAL Class A champs
Top 20 in 20 years: Memorable WPIAL baseball finals have been staged at Wild Things Park
What to watch for in WPIAL sports for May 28, 2024: PIAA tournament bids up for grabs
Recovered after tough WPIAL playoff loss, Burrell baseball team refocused for PIAAs