Trib HSSN Baseball Team of the Week for April 5, 2021: Valley

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Monday, April 5, 2021 | 10:43 PM


The first full week “back to work” for the Valley baseball team was nearly perfect.

After losing their season opener Mar. 26 at Highlands, the Vikings nearly matched their win total of five in 2019 in one week, going 3-0.

“The biggest concern coming into the season is always the pitching and hitting,” Valley fifth-year coach Jim Basilone said. “After a year off from the covid-19 cancelled season, it was unknown how our team would perform at the beginning of the season because of that 2020 void of playing baseball that was lost for the juniors that are now seniors.”

Those concerns can be put aside for the moment after Valley outscored its opponents 29-0 in those three nonsection victories in two days.

The week began for the Vikings on Tuesday with a 14-0 win over visiting Springdale.

“Pitching and timely hitting were the key throughout the entire game,” Basilone said. “The pitchers threw strikes and did not walk batters. We also had 15 hits that also helped our cause in the victory.”

The big offense and solid mound work continued the next day when the Vikings swept a doubleheader against Leechburg by scores of 5-0 and 10-0.

“Pitchers throwing strikes, minimal walks and great defensive plays as well as timely hitting,” Basilone said about his team’s performance on Wednesday. “Total team effort in both wins. Also having a freshman throwing a no-hitter in his first varsity outing on the mound was huge for this team as well as his confidence, knowing that the defense and offense supported him throughout the entire game.”

That freshman was Tyler Danko, who walked two and struck out seven in his five inning no-hitter in the Vikings’ 10-0 win in Game 2 of the twin bill against the Blue Devils.

Danko, along with senior John Luke Bailey and junior Ben Aftanas, all hope to build off their week of shutouts.

“Our pitching staff had worked hard during the offseason and had come into the 2021 season more focused and dedicated to getting the job done on the hill, knowing that their teammates would have their back and support them on defense,” Basilone said. “With that said, the pitching and defense had complemented each other. Pitchers threw strikes and had minimum walks and the defense supported them if they happened to make a mistake with a pitch.”

Basilone pointed out several other players off to good starts in 2021 for Valley.

On defense, the work of senior shortstop Shane Demharter, freshman centerfielder Jacob Staraniec and senior catcher Cayden Quinn has been very good. At the plate, junior first baseman Issac Kelley, senior outfielder/DH Evan Henry, senior outfielder Javon Keys, junior catcher/DH Matteo Vergerio along with Aftanas and Danko have the Vikings averaging over seven runs a game early on.

Valley missed the playoffs in 2019, finishing 5-8. However, Basilone says so much has changed since then.

“Life and how much these young student-athletes now have to deal with and understand change quickly because of the covid-19 world situation,” he said. “They have had to adapt with many changes since we have been canceled for an entire spring season. All of them appreciate the opportunity to play baseball again and enjoy the game together. Knowing that every moment in time counts and not to ever take it for granted. At any time throughout the season, we hopefully are not looking out the window from the inside at another empty baseball field.”

With fingers crossed and coming off a big week, Valley will begin Section 3-3A play with back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday against Derry.

“We feel confident and ready to compete with integrity, discipline and unity as one group ready to play as a unit together towards one goal,” Basilone said. “Be better than the day before and let nothing stand in our way to achieve our goals.”

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