Trib HSSN baseball team of the week for April 2, 2023

Sunday, April 2, 2023 | 8:34 PM

Brian Junker knows what a championship baseball team looks like after leading Shaler to WPIAL Class 5A gold in 2019.

It’s early in the season, but this Titans team looks special as the calendar turns from March to April.

“I love this team. I love these kids,” Junker said. “Everyone’s a hard worker, you never have anyone missing practice out of nowhere and we’ve worked hard. They are definitely all in.”

Shaler always has been a competitive team, winning five WPIAL championships and a PIAA state title 43 years ago.

Now, Junker hopes the team is getting stronger with the addition of a strength coach in 2022: former Titans player Alex Ficcorelli.

“We went from hitting one or two home runs a year to 16 last year,” Junker said. “He’s with us again this year, and the boys are big, strong and fast, things you wouldn’t say about a Shaler team in the past. We’re as big if not bigger than a lot of teams, and I think that has helped us out a lot.”

Shaler entered last week with a 2-1 overall record with nonsection games against a former 5A neighbor that moved down to 4A and the two-time defending PIAA 5A champions.

“We always focus on our process, and we don’t worry about who we are playing,” Junker said. “With (Miguel) Hugas on the mound against Hampton, he was pretty strong. I think he ended up with five strikeouts and no walks in six innings.”

The senior Hugas, an Alabama commit, only allowed two hits and the Titans scored four runs in the first inning to win 7-0.

“Against Bethel Park, our pitchers had 11 strikeouts and zero walks, so if you strikeout 16 in a week with no walks, you’re going to win a lot of games,” Junker said. “We focus on first-pitch strikes as a team. If our pitchers are throwing greater than 60% first pitch strikes, we win a lot of those games.”

The Titans erased a 1-0 deficit with three runs in the third inning and single runs in the fifth and sixth inning as they defeated the Black Hawks, 5-2.

In their wins over Hampton, Bethel Park, Fox Chapel and Mt. Lebanon, Shaler has allowed four total runs.

Junker believes the Titans have the pitching depth to match up with anyone in the section.

“We have Miguel, (senior) Derick Leas, who was our No. 2 last year, and we have Colby Weber, who is a sophomore we think he can do as well, as Miguel and Derick, and we have (junior) Chase Barron, who this is really like his first year pitching, but he’s a 6-foot-4 kid who’s running it up to 90 (mph) with probably the best curveall I’ve seen.

“We have a couple of more guys right behind them, so this is the first year we’ve had pitching depth, so this might be the best staff since I’ve been here.”

The Section 3-5A schedule begins Monday with a home game against Moon followed by a trip to play the Tigers on Tuesday.

“I don’t know much about them other than they have a new coach,” Junker said. “We’re going to go in there and throw first-pitch strikes and play some defense and try to have as many quality at-bats as we can.”

2022 Trib HSSN Baseball Teams of the Week

Week 11 – Montour Spartans

Week 10 – Burgettstown Blue Devils

Week 9 – West Mifflin Titans

Week 8 – Upper St. Clair Panthers

Week 7 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars

Week 6 – West Allegheny Indians

Week 5 – Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils

Week 4 – Shenango Wildcats

Week 3 – Hopewell Vikings

Week 2 – Chartiers Valley Colts

Week 1 – Beaver Bobcats


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